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Court rejects Banda's bid to halt result publication

23 May 2014, 18:49

Blantyre - Malawi's high court has thrown out President Joyce Banda's application to block the release of election results, three days after the chaotic vote began.

Banda's People's Party (PP) had alleged that "figures that are coming from the districts tally centres are not matching with the number of voters from different polling stations because the system has been hacked", according to a court affidavit.

But in the ruling obtained by AFP on Friday, Judge Mike Tembo rejected the bid as "premature since official results are not yet out".

Banda on Thursday claimed "serious irregularities" in this week's highly charged election, saying people had voted multiple times, ballots had been tampered with, presiding officers arrested, and the computerised voter counting system had collapsed.

Observers have so far noted "considerable organisational shortcomings", but little sign of rigging.

The country's electoral commission chief Maxon Mbendera earlier rebuffed Banda's request for an audit of the votes.

Mbendera said the president's claims were a sign of her "desperation" and told AFP the election was "valid".

First major electoral test

Three days after Tuesday's vote no official results have been released and the southern African country's 28 districts are sending results manually via fax and email.

Voting had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday, but was extended through to Thursday when delays of up to 10 hours prompted riots in the commercial capital Blantyre, where the army was deployed.

This is the first major electoral test for the 64-year-old president, who came to power when her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died in office two years ago.

Unconfirmed results in local media say Peter Mutharika, brother of the late president, is in the lead.

A Banda-allied junior minister committed suicide on Thursday, apparently under the impression he had lost his constituency.

After Mutharika's corruption-tainted rule, Banda initially was a darling of the West as one of Africa's rare women leaders.

But her government has since been ensnared in a $30m government corruption scandal dubbed "Cashgate" that has seen foreign donors freeze badly needed aid.

Former foreign minister Mutharika, 74, was allowed to run in the election despite facing a trial for treason after allegedly trying to prevent Banda from taking power.



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