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Malawi Elections:Too Close To Call?

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Ab-Titchaz, May 19, 2009.

  1. Ab-Titchaz

    Ab-Titchaz Content Manager Staff Member

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    May 19, 2009
    Joined: Jan 30, 2008
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    Malawi poll rivals neck-and-neck


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    Incumbent President Bingu wa Mutharika is chasing a second term

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    John Tembo hopes the poll will end 15 years in opposition


    Malawi's general election race remains too close to call on the eve of the poll to elect the nation's next president and parliament, say analysts.
    Seven candidates are vying for the top job but it is being viewed as a two-horse race between incumbent Bingu Wa Mutharika and his opponent, John Tembo. Some 3,900 poll stations across Malawi will open at 0500 BST on Tuesday. The campaign has unfolded in the shadow of a bitter feud between Mr Mutharika and his predecessor Baklili Muluzi.

    Former President Muluzi lost a court battle on Saturday to stand for a third term, having argued in vain that after a break of five years he should be able to stand again.

    After the legal defeat, Mr Muluzi's United Democratic Front endorsed Malawi Congress Party leader Mr Tembo.

    The power struggle stems from the aftermath of President Mutharika's election in 2004, when he fell out with his one-time backer, accusing Mr Muluzi of trying to stonewall an anti-corruption campaign. Mr Mutharika quit his rival's party in 2005 to form his own Democratic Progressive Party and lead a minority government.

    Tuesday's poll will give Malawi's 5.9 million voters their first chance to have their say on the power struggle that has spawned riots, a failed impeachment bid, parliamentary deadlock and coup plot claims.

    Mr Tembo, 77, once a leading figure in the regime of the late dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda, is hoping the election will bring to an end 15 years in opposition.

    Mr Mutharika, 75, a former World Bank official who has won praise from Western donors, has said he only wants one more term and would then retire.

    Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world but it has also enjoyed relative peace and stability over the past decade.

    Anastansia Msosa, chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission, said everything was almost ready for voting.

    She told the BBC's Focus on Africa: "There are a few materials that are not yet in place but we are sure that by the end of the day and come tomorrow, every polling centre will have the necessary materials to enable the people to vote."

    The poll official expressed surprise at a suggestion there were not enough ballot papers in opposition strongholds as part of some alleged plot to disenfranchise rivals of the governing party and said that she had not received any complaint from leaders of any party to this effect.

    On the eve of the polls, former Ghanaian President John Kufuor - who is chairing a Commonwealth election observers mission to Malawi - accused Malawi state TV of apparent bias towards the governing party in its campaign coverage.

    Final results are expected by Thursday.

    BBC NEWS | Africa | Malawi poll rivals neck-and-neck

     
  2. Bluray

    Bluray JF-Expert Member

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    May 19, 2009
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    Is Mutharika the best one for Malawi?

    Malawi President Is Expected to Win Second Term

    By SARAH CHILDRESS
    Malawians head to the polls Tuesday for parliamentary and presidential elections in the southern African nation's fourth democratic vote since independence.

    This will be sub-Saharan Africa's second poll in a busy election year for the region. So far, the 2009 calendar includes ballots in the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Botswana and Mozambique. Last year's contests in Kenya and Zimbabwe were marred by violence.

    A free, fair vote in South Africa last month unfolded without incident. Political observers say they expect balloting in Malawi, which became a democracy in 1994, to follow suit. Official results are expected this week.

    The election pits President Bingu wa Mutharika against John Tembo, a career politician who worked under former President Hastings Banda. Mr. Banda ruled as a dictator for more than 30 years.

    Mr. Mutharika, who has a Ph.D. in economics, is lauded by supporters and critics alike for spurring impressive growth in the tiny, impoverished nation, and is expected to win a second five-year term. His Democratic Progressive Party, however, may fail to win a majority in the 193-seat parliament, political analysts say.

    Mr. Tembo enjoys a loyal following, but his political fortunes are affected by years under Mr. Banda, during which opponents of the regime were jailed and sometimes murdered. Mr. Tembo has denied involvement and said he is committed to defending human rights. Mr. Tembo, of the Malawi Congress Party, has been a member of parliament during President Mutharika's tenure.

    Last year, Malawi posted one of the fastest growth rates in Africa, at 9.7%, behind oil producers such as Angola and Equatorial Guinea. The government has helped cut the nation's debt in half. Malawi's economic progress in 2009 was largely due to a record harvest of tobacco, the country's main cash crop, and strong maize production.

    Under Mr. Mutharika, the government set up a multimillion-dollar fertilizer-subsidy program that has helped turn the land-locked country into a food exporter, not an importer. Mr. Mutharika has campaigned on this progress, broadcasting his pitch in radio messages to rural voters.

    This year, the global recession will cut growth to just 6.9%, the International Monetary Fund forecasts-a modest drop on a continent that is feeling the pinch of declining remittances, tourism revenue and demand for commodities.

    Malawi, which once needed help to feed its citizens, now sells food to the World Food Program and donates some to nearby Zimbabwe.

    This year, Malawi also expects a new revenue stream from its first uranium mine, which opened last month and is run by Paladin Africa Ltd., a Malawian subsidiary of Australia uranium producer, Paladin Energy Ltd. The government has a 15% stake in the project and estimates that it should add 10% to Malawi's $4.3 billion gross domestic product.

    President Mutharika's government has been criticized by Malawian human-rights groups for a lack of transparency and a disregard for the country's laws.

    "Good economic performance becomes beneficial to the citizenry-if it happens in the context of good political governance," said Mavuto Bamusi, national coordinator of the Human Rights Consultative Committee, a network of 90 Malawian civil-society groups.

    Mr. Bamusi said the president's anticorruption campaign has pursued political foes and overlooked friends -- a charge his party denies.

    "We are really proud of the leadership of President Bingu wa Mutharika," said government spokeswoman Patricia Kaliati. "Because of food security for the public, the fight against corruption, and the economy."

    Before Mr. Mutharika became president, Ms. Kaliati said, "we didn't have food security, and people were poor."
     
  3. Ab-Titchaz

    Ab-Titchaz Content Manager Staff Member

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    May 20, 2009
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    Bid to halt Malawi poll results


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    John Tembo (l) will not accept a victory for President Mutharika (r)

    Malawi's main opposition party has called for the release of results from Tuesday's general election to be stopped, citing"irregularities". The Malawi Congress Party says its election agents were denied access to counting centres in its traditional stronghold in the Central Region.

    Several MCP parliamentary candidates have lost their seats in the area.
    The MCP presidential candidate said he would not accept President Bingu wa Mutharika being declared the victor. The presidential contest between the two men had been seen as the closest in the country's history.

    John Tembo is backed by ex-President Bakili Muluzi, whose attempt to run for a third term was blocked by the courts.

    While it is still among the poorest nations, Malawi has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and Western donors hope its relative stability over the past decade will not be disrupted.

    Radio raided

    Chief Election Officer David Bandawe said the electoral commission would investigate the MCP complaints. Results have been released from just 1% of the 3,897 polling stations around the country.

    President Mutharika has 34,585 votes against 10,954 for Mr Tembo.

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    Earlier, John Kufuor, team leader for the Commonwealth observer group, told the BBC he had been concerned with the media coverage during the election process.

    "The major handicap, we thought, was lack of coverage of the parties outside the government," he said.

    AFP news agency reported that police had raided a radio station owned by Mr Muluzi shortly before polls opened. The agency cited police as saying three members of staff had been arrested at Joy Radio, and was told by an editor that a tape of a satirical programme had been seized.

    The election follows a long political feud between Mr Mutharika and his predecessor Mr Muluzi that has caused riots, a failed impeachment bid, parliamentary deadlock and coup plot claims. Mr Muluzi lost a court battle on Saturday to be able to stand for a third term, having argued in vain that after a break of five years, he should be able to run for office again.
    His United Democratic Front has endorsed Mr Tembo, leader of the Malawi Congress Party, which governed the country for 30 years.

    Mr Mutharika fell out with his one-time backer in 2004, accusing Mr Muluzi of trying to stonewall an anti-corruption drive. Mr Muluzi is being tried on charges of siphoning $10m (£6.5m) from donor countries, but insists the charges are politically motivated. Mr Mutharika quit his rival's party in 2005 to form his own Democratic Progressive Party and lead a minority government.

    The 75-year-old former World Bank official, who has won praise from Western donors, says he only wants one more term and will then retire.
    Mr Tembo, 77, once a leading figure in the regime of the late dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda, is hoping the election will bring to an end 15 years in opposition.

    Poverty, agriculture and health care are the big issues for Malawi, where two-thirds of the population lives on less than a dollar a day and Aids has orphaned an estimated one million children.

    In the parliamentary election, about 1,100 candidates, including a record number of women, are standing but no party is expected to win an outright majority.

    There are five other candidates in the presidential race but two have already conceded that President Mutharika has won.
    Final results are expected by Thursday.

    BBC NEWS | Africa | Bid to halt Malawi poll results
     
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