Lilongwe — MALAWI, hailed as a beacon of peace in Africa, is tense ahead of a judgement by the Constitutional Court on an election the opposition believes was rigged in favour of incumbent, President Peter Mutharika, last May.
The court will hand its verdict on the poll on Monday (February 3).
Whatever the outcome, the verdict will be a watershed moment that will see the sustenance of peace or plunge the impoverished Southern African country into turmoil.
Anxiety has gripped the nation of 19,7 million people ahead of the court ruling. Some schools and companies have shut for the week in fear of violence flaring after the ruling is announced.
Intermittent protests have beset Malawi since Mutharika was declared the winner last year.
A police officer was late last year stoned to death as mobs ran amok.
Opposition supporters are demanding the resignation of Jane Ansah, chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), for alleged rigging. Her supporters believe she is a victim of gender discrimination.
Polls were the tightest contested since independence from Britain in 1964. All three candidates-Mutharika (1,94 million), Lazarus Chakwera (1,78 million) and Saulos Chilima (1,018 million) all secured more than 1 million votes each.
It is the first legal challenge to a presidential election in the country's history.
Ahead of the court ruling, Southern African Development (SADC) chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also president of Zimbabwe, condemned violence and appealed for order.
"SADC further urges all stakeholders to respect the judgment of the Constitutional Court of Malawi, and to remain calm and maintain peace and order during and after the delivery of the verdict," Mnangagwa stated.