20 May 2014

Malawi: Voters Turn Out in High Numbers to Elect President, Parliament

Photo: MESN
Supporters of different political parties mingle

Voters in Malawi have turned out in high numbers to elect a new president and parliament. Security forces were deployed to contain violence that broke out after delays in opening some polling stations.

The chairman of Malawi's Electoral Committee, Maxon Mbendera, acknowledged difficulties in getting some polling stations up and running and that some had remained open for three hours after they had been scheduled to close.

Violence was reported in at least one district of the country's biggest city, Blantyre, where police used tear gas to disperse angry protesters who threw stones and ransacked a polling station where there had been a voting delay.

The election was seen as the first major test of incumbent President Joyce Banda's rule, which has been tainted by a scandal dubbed "Cashgate," involving the disappearance of 22 milllion euros ($30 million) from the national treasury, which saw foreign donors freeze vital aid to the country.

Banda (pictured above) was up against a total of 11 challengers, including one other woman in the presidential vote. Almost 1,300 candidates ran for the 194 seats in parliament.

Turnout was expected to be high, with nearly 7.5 million people, or 90 percent of eligible voters having registered for the polls. Turnout in the last election, in 2009, was 78 percent.

The first results are expected to be announced within the next eight days.

pfd/dr (AFP, dpa, AP)


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