Main Candidates In Malawi’s Presidential Election Re-Run

Here are profiles of the two leading contenders in Malawi’s presidential election re-run:
– The elderly incumbent –

President Peter Mutharika, 79, won his first mandate in the 2014 election, two years after his elder brother Bingu wa Mutharika died after having a heart attack while in office.

Last year he was elected for a second five-year term but the result was annulled by a top court, which found the vote flawed by irregularities, including use of correction fluid on tally sheets.

The court said he would stay in office until fresh elections it ordered were held.

He spent much of the last few months fighting to keep his job, labelling the court decision a “judicial coup d’etat”.

Last month the Supreme Court threw out his appeal against the Constitutional Court’s landmark ruling.

Mutharika responded by accusing judges of working with the opposition to steal the election.

A former law professor at Washington University, Mutharika is a constitutional expert who served as a minister of justice, for education, science and technology, and as minister of foreign affairs.

He came to power on a promise to tackle corruption after a scandal erupted in 2013, revealing looting from state coffers by government officials, ruling-party figures and businessmen.

But his first term was tainted by graft allegations, and dominated by food shortages, power outages and ballooning external debt, which have damaged his popularity, as well as concerns about his health.

In 2018, a public outcry ignited over $200,000 (178,000 euros) that he had allegedly received from a businessman who was under investigation for a multi-million-dollar deal to supply food to the police.

As leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Mutharika has had a mixed economic record since 2014. Growth has slowed from 5.7 percent to four percent but inflation has fallen sharply from 23 percent to 9.3 percent at the end of 2019, according to IMF figures.

His attempts to impose lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus in April were torpedoed by a court which said he had failed to announce any measures to cushion the vulnerable in the impoverished country.

“If you give me another five-year term, this country will develop to the level of South Africa or Singapore, London, America or Canada,” he promised at a campaign rally.

– The confident opponent –

Former evangelist preacher Lazarus Chakwera, 65, leads Malawi’s oldest party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which is the main opposition party and ruled Malawi for three decades from 1964 to 1994 under Hastings Banda’s one-party rule.

Chakwera led the party into the 2014 elections, coming second to Mutharika at the polls.

The defeat, since annulled, meant that the MCP has lost all five presidential elections since 1994 but Chakwera has made great efforts to re-energise the party’s base, and on the campaign trail he declared he was confident of victory.

“The people want change. They’re demanding change and they see us as the face of change,” he told AFP.

For the re-polling, Chakwera obtained the high-profile support of Vice President Saulos Chilima, former president Joyce Banda and several other small political parties.

Chakwera was born in Lilongwe to a subsistence farmer whose two elder sons died in infancy. He was named Lazarus after the biblical character who was raised from the dead.

He took degrees in philosophy and theology, was president of the Malawi Assemblies of God from 1989 to 2013 and then became the MCP’s leader.

Chakwera, who speaks with a deep American accent, said he loves reading and music — traditional, Western, country and gospel.

“I love to sing even when I am by myself, in the shower,” he said.

AFP

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