Lilongwe, MALAWI — Following Friday’s declaration by the Malawi Electoral Commission, Peter Mutharika has been sworn in as the country’s president after the High Court rejected a request for a recount.
Outgoing president Joyce Banda had earlier called for an annulment of the vote citing rigging and computer hacking, but the courts threw out the request paving the way for the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party to be sworn in. Joyce Banda has subsequently admitted defeat. Conceding, she asked Malawians “to to support the newly elected president… and his government as they take on this foundation of progress and endeavour to develop Malawi even further.” A protester died on Friday as police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse an angry crowd demanding a recount of last week’s ballot in the south-eastern town of Mangochi.
In his inaugural speech, Mr. Mutharika called on the other candidates to “join him in rebuilding the country” which is one of the poorest in Africa. The country depends heavily on foreign aid with as much as 40% of its budget hedged on donor inputs. Foreign aid however was heavily cut after the government of Joyce Banda was hit with a series of scandals dubbed ‘Cashgate’ in which several of her close aides were implicated.
“It’s obvious we are facing serious problems in this country. All of us together, let us build the country which is almost on the verge of collapse,” Mr. Mutharika said.
Peter Mutharika won the poll with a popular vote of 36.4% followed by Dr. Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party with 27.8%. Joyce Banda, representing the People’s Party only managed third place with 20.2%.
Mutharika is the brother of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office in 2012 and also served as his foreign minister. There was talk of suing against his presidency on the grounds that he holds an American Green Card, but with his swearing-in that seems to have been relinquished.