Lazarus Chakwera sworn in as Malawi president after historic win

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Lazarus Chakwera addressing a campaign rally (file pic)

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Lazarus Chakwera’s political fortunes were revived by a court ruling that annulled last year’s flawed election

Lazarus Chakwera has been sworn in as president of Malawi after winning an election rerun.

“Time has come for us to wake up and to make our dreams come true,” Mr Chakwera said in his victory speech.

He defeated incumbent Peter Mutharika with 58.57% of the vote in Tuesday’s poll.

In February, Malawi’s constitutional court annulled Mr Mutharika’s victory in the May 2019 election, citing vote tampering.

The country was bitterly divided in the run-up to this week’s election.

Other countries in Africa have had elections annulled – it happened in Kenya in 2017 – but for the opposition candidate to then go on and win a rerun is unprecedented.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s results, Mr Mutharika said that while he found the election “unacceptable”, it was his “sincere hope that we should take this country forward instead of backwards.”

  • How brave judges rejected a ‘second-rate election’

Saulos Chilima, Mr Chakwera’s running mate, was also sworn in as vice-president at a ceremony in the capital, Lilongwe.

Mr Chakwera, a Pentecostal preacher and former theology lecturer, will first have to heal a nation that has been through many months of political turmoil.

What did the new president say?

“Fellow Malawians to stand before you as your president today is an honour,” Mr Chakwera said in a speech after being sworn in.

He vowed to unite the country and fight poverty.

“Of what use is freedom from oppression if you and I are slaves to starvation? Or freedom from colonialism if you are a slave to tribalism?,” he said.

“Time has come for us to go beyond dreaming, time has come for us to wake up, to arise from slumber, and to make our dreams come true,” Mr Chakwera said.

“With your help we will restore faith in having a government that serves; not a government that rules, a government that inspires, not a government that infuriates, a government that listens, not a government that shouts but a government that fights for you and not against you,” he added.

Mr Mutharika did not attend the ceremony because the law does not require the outgoing president to be present when a successor is taking over, the BBC’s Peter Jegwa in Lilongwe reports.

Why was there a new vote?

A rerun of the 2019 election was ordered after the Constitutional Court found the original ballot had been marred by widespread irregularities.

That election saw President Mutharika narrowly re-elected by fewer than 159,000 votes.

Mr Chakwera, who came second in that election, argued that tallying forms had been added up incorrectly and tampered with.

A woman voting in Malawi, 21 May 2019

Getty Images

Malawi’s 13-month election
  • First electionon 21 May 2019

  • Mutharikasworn in on 27 May 2019

  • Thousands proteston 20 June 2019, complaining of fraud

  • Constitutional courtoverturns result on 3 February 2020 and orders re-run

  • Court rejectsMutharika’s appeal on 8 May 2020

Source: BBC

Uncertainty around the result sparked months of tension, which spilled over into clashes between opposition supporters and police.

February’s annulment led some to celebrate, but Mr Mutharika described it as a “serious subversion of justice” which marked the death of the country’s democracy.

There were concerns over the logistics and safety of carrying out an election in the midst of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

This week’s rerun was largely peaceful, despite deep tensions

Who is Lazarus Chakwera ?

The opposition leader, a former cleric, heads up the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Born in Lilongwe to a subsistence farmer, the philosophy and theology graduate has pledged to raise the national minimum wage, among other reforms.

Lazarus Chakwera

AFP

Lazarus Chakwera

Candidate for the Tonse Alliance

  • Born 5 April 1955

  • Studied theology in Malawi, South Africa and USA

  • Pastor and lecturer worked at the Assemblies of God School of Theology

  • Authored several books on religion including Reach the Nations

  • Ran for president in 2014 and came second

Source: BBC Monitoring

Mr Chakwera leads a nine-party coalition, the Tonse Alliance, and had the backing of former President Joyce Banda as well Mr Chilima, who served as deputy to Mr Mutharika.



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