Malawi's election crisis: a timeline

28 June 2020 - 20:00 By AFP
Main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera (C) flanked by his running mate Sidiki Mia (L) and party’s campaign director Moses Kunkuyu.
Main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera (C) flanked by his running mate Sidiki Mia (L) and party’s campaign director Moses Kunkuyu.

Malawi's new president Lazarus Chakwera was sworn-in on Sunday after winning last week's election re-rerun following the scrapping of the 2019 vote for irregularities in a historic legal ruling.

Following are key events in the crisis:

Narrow win 

On May 21, 2019, President Peter Mutharika, in power since 2014, is re-elected with 38.57 percent of the vote.

He wins by just 159,000 votes over Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) who won 35.4 percent, according to official figures.

The results are published two days late, after accusations of fraud that prompt a court to order a recount of a third of the electoral districts.

Chakwera argues that tally sheets have been smudged with correction fluid -- and sheets from polling stations far apart each bear the same handwriting.

On May 28, Mutharika, whose party denies fraud, is sworn in.

Challenged in court 

Chakwera goes to court to demand cancellation of the election, as does vice president Saulos Chilima, who came third.

In June, thousands of people take part in protests, which often lead to clashes with the police.

Mutharika accuses Chakwera of seeking to overthrow the government.

The headquarters of the main opposition party are torched and destroyed.

On August 8, for the first time since Malawi's independence in 1964, the Constitutional Court meets to hear a request for a vote cancellation. The sitting is broadcast live for weeks by private radio stations.

In January 2020, the president of the court denounces an attempt to corrupt his judges, unleashing new protests.

Election cancelled 

On February 3, the Constitutional Court, sitting under heavy security, overturns Mutharika's re-election -- citing "grave", "widespread" and "systematic" irregularities.

It orders a new vote be staged within 150 days, a decision that triggers jubilation.

Malawi becomes only the second country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results set aside, after Kenya in 2017.

Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission appeal the ruling.

Election re-staged 

Parliament votes through a law requiring a more than 50 percent majority to secure victory, meeting one of the Constitutional Court's demands.

In March, the electoral commission sets the election for July 2.

Vice President Chilima files a lawsuit against Mutharika after he refuses to promulgate laws to hold the re-run and fire the electoral commissioners who oversaw the failed election.

Three people die following a petrol-bomb attack on an office of one of the main opposition parties, the United Transformation Movement (UTM), in Lilongwe.

On May 8, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismisses bids to overturn the annulment and authorises parliament to set a date for the new vote. Mutharika denounces a "judicial coup d'etat."

On May 21, controversial electoral commission boss Jane Ansah resigns.

On June 8, a new electoral commission is named.

The election is finally brought forward to June 23.

On June 27, Chakwera is officially pronounced the winner with 58.57 percent of the vote, according to official figures, becoming the first opposition to beat an incumbent in an election re-run in Africa.

Mutharika comes second with just over 39 percent, while underdog candidate Peter Dominico Kuwani rakes up the balance of less than one percent.