31 May 2014

Malawi: Mutharika Sworn in As New President

Peter Mutharika has been sworn in as the new president of Malawi.

The 74-year-old-leader of the Democratic Progressive Party was sworn in Saturday in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

Mutharika said in a brief address that his main task would be uniting Malawians after the protracted wrangling over electoral issues. He invited his competitors to help him rebuild the country.

On Friday, election officials declared Mutharika the winner of last week's disputed presidential election after defeating incumbent President Joyce Banda.

The Malawi Electoral Commission announced the results just hours after protesters demanding a vote recount clashed with police in the southern town of Mangochi. The violence left at least one person dead.

The final tally had Mutharika winning with just over 36 percent of the vote, and Malawi Congress Party candidate Lazrous Chakwera with about 29 percent.

President Banda finished third with just over 20 percent of the vote.

Mutharika, the brother of late president Bingu wa Mutharika, will have an inauguration ceremony Sunday.

Banda, a former vice president, assumed the presidency two years ago when Bingu wa Mutharika died.

The May 20 vote was plagued by problems, including polling stations opening late and inaccuracies on ballots. The irregularities prompted the election commission to extend voting into a second day, and then into a third day in some areas.

Banda said the election was rife with fraud, including ballot rigging and people voting more than once.

She had ordered a new election within 90 days and said she would not be a candidate. But the High Court overruled her when the main opposition party complained.

On Thursday, Banda told Reuters she was ready to step down if the court ratified the election and her chief opponent, Mutharika, turned out to be the winner. However, she said she still believed the election was fraudulent.

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