Malawi's Electoral Commission has started announcing preliminary results from Tuesday's re-run of last year's presidential election.
Local media gave opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera a comfortable lead over incumbent President Peter Mutharika.
In the court-sanctioned re-run, President Mutharika, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, (DPP) is running against Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and little known Peter Kuwani of the opposition Mbakuwaku Movement for Democracy (MMD).
Announcing the results at the main tally center Thursday in Blantyre, Electoral Commission Chairperson Chifundo Kachale said the commission had received results from 26 of the country’s 28 districts.
He read out returns from three districts; Chiradzulu, Mwanza and Likoma, which were the first to submit their counted ballots to the tally center.
“The results for Likoma; the MCP candidate Lazarus Chakwera got 2,981 votes, and Peter Domic Sinosi Kuwani for MMD got 31 votes, while Arthur Peter Mutharika of the DPP got 1,690 votes.
In results from other two districts, President Mutharika was leading, while Chakwera came second and Kuwani, last.
Kachale said that as of Thursday morning, the commission had finished verifying results from about one-fifth of the districts and promised to complete the rest soon.
“We continue to emphasize that we are committed to get this job done as soon as possible. We wouldn’t want to create any anxiety by delaying this process needlessly, you have our greatest commitment that come this evening, you see significant progress districts we have managed to clear.”
However, Malawian media, including the state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, said Chakwera held a strong lead with 55 percent of the vote, compared to 40 percent for Mutharika.
Eisenhower Mkaka, Secretary General of the MCP, told VOA the party does expect changes from the figures that local media announced, because those figures reflect vote totals the party collected from its monitors across the country.
“There could be some changes because unlike in the past, what the Commission is now doing according to the law is to look at the null and void votes. So, in some cases they are determining that ‘No, this shouldn’t be a null and void [vote]’. There might be some small, small, changes but not material enough to change anything.”
VOA could not reach DPP officials for comment but the party’s spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, told a local radio station Thursday that he will comment after official final results are announced.
The Malawi Electoral Commission is expected to announce final results within eight days from the day of voting as required by law.
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) says the new leadership of the electoral commission exceeded expectations in organizing Wednesday's presidential poll rerun.
Eisenhower Mkaka, General Secretary of the MCP, also says his group condemns pockets of isolated cases of violence in parts of the country during the election.
His comments come after the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) expressed concern about violence against its supporters in the opposition party's strongholds. The party also says it appears the MCP took advantage of the lack of international poll observers to undermine the integrity of the election.
Nicholas Dausi, spokesperson for the DPP, warned that his party will reject the outcome of the poll rerun. This, as the unofficial figures tabulated by the MCP show its presidential candidate, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, will defeat incumbent President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika.
Dr. Justice Chifundo Kachale, the newly installed chairperson of the Malawi electoral commission, says his organization will release official results of the poll after resolving concerns of the parties.
Analysts say it appears the opposition has an upper hand in the collated unofficial results of the election. They also say it is likely the ruling party will challenge the outcome of the election but also expressed doubt about the prospects. This, they say, was due to the transparency in Wednesday's vote.
Mkaka, the general secrecy of the MCP, tells VOA's Peter Clottey it is clear that the election was peaceful and transparent in spite of the isolated cases of violence in parts of the country, which he argued was not enough to undermine the integrity of the poll.