Opposition Protests in Malawi Threaten Mutharika’s Already Fragile Mandate

Opposition Protests in Malawi Threaten Mutharika’s Already Fragile Mandate
Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika, greets supporters during his inauguration ceremony at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, Malawi, May 31, 2019 (AP photo by Thoko Chikondi).

President Peter Mutharika was sworn in for a second term in Malawi late last month, but opposition protesters are challenging the legitimacy of his recent reelection, based on widespread allegations of vote-rigging. Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, has been rocked over the past two weeks by steady protests that have included demonstrators storming government buildings to demand that opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera, who finished a close second in the election, be sworn in as president instead.

Last Thursday, police used teargas to disperse a rally outside the headquarters of the opposition Malawi Congress Party, which Chakwera heads. That clash occurred while Chakwera was meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Lilongwe. Some of the tear gas also wafted into the nearby U.S. Embassy, according to The Associated Press.

Mutharika narrowly won a second five-year term in a closely contested election last month, taking just 38.5 percent of the vote. In his swearing-in ceremony, he urged national unity and called for the country to move on, but Chakwera is challenging the results in court. He and other opposition figures are alleging irregularities in results from 10 of the country’s 28 districts. In the most egregious cases, ballots were allegedly altered with correction fluid.

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