Malawians await election results Amid long queues at poll stations, a huge turnout is forecast Votes are being counted in Malawi s general election, withMessage 1 of 1 , May 20, 2009View Source
Malawians await election resultsAmid long queues at poll stations, a huge turnout is forecast
Votes are being counted in Malawi's general election, with analysts suggesting the presidential race is too close to call. Election officials were up all night but only a tiny number of official results have been published.
Seven candidates are vying for the top job but it is viewed as a two-horse race between incumbent Bingu wa Mutharika and his opponent, John Tembo.
The southern African country is also electing a new parliament.
Mr Tembo is backed by ex-President Bakili Muluzi, whose attempt to run for a third term was blocked by the courts.
While it is still among the poorest nations, Malawi has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and Western donors hope its relative stability over the past decade will not be disrupted.
Results have been released from just 13 of the 3, 897 polling stations around the country.
President Mutharika has 4,444 votes, against 2,358 for Mr Tembo.
It's my right to choose the president that's going to take us through five years of development, better education and everything possible we need for a better MalawiVoter
"Malawians throughout the country conducted themselves peacefully and orderly," said election commission chairperson Supreme Court judge Justice Anastansia Msosa.
However, John Kufuor, team leader for the Commonwealth observer group, told the BBC he had been concerned with the media coverage during the election process."The major handicap, we thought, was lack of coverage of the parties outside the government," he said.
AFP news agency reported that police had raided a radio station supportive of the opposition shortly before polls opened.
The agency cited police as saying three members of staff had been arrested at Joy Radio, and was told by an editor that a tape of a satirical programme had been seized.
Long queues were reported as nearly six million voters cast their ballots at almost 4,000 polling stations around the country.
After casting his ballot in his home village of Goliati in southern Malawi, Mr Mutharika said: "There is a large turnout, people exercising their right to vote," reported AFP.
Malawi Electoral Commission Chairman Justice Ananstasia Msosa told Reuters that turnout appeared higher than in the last election, in 2004.
"The voting was conducted in an orderly manner without incidences of violence," he said.
The election follows a long political feud between Mr Mutharika and his predecessor Mr Muluzi that has caused riots, a failed impeachment bid, parliamentary deadlock and coup plot claims.
Mr Muluzi lost a court battle on Saturday to be able to stand for a third term, having argued in vain that after a break of five years, he should be able to run for office again.
MALAWI POLL BY NUMBERS5.9m voters, 3,900 poll boothsSeven presidential contenders1,100 candidates for 193 parliamentary seatsAverage annual income: $313 (£200) per head
Mr Mutharika fell out with his one-time backer in 2004, accusing Mr Muluzi of trying to stonewall an anti-corruption drive.
Mr Muluzi is being tried on charges of siphoning $10m (£6.5m) from donor countries, but insists the charges are politically motivated.
Mr Mutharika quit his rival's party in 2005 to form his own Democratic Progressive Party and lead a minority government.
The 75-year-old former World Bank official, who has won praise from Western donors, says he only wants one more term and will then retire.
Mr Tembo, 77, once a leading figure in the regime of the late dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda, is hoping the election will bring to an end 15 years in opposition.
Poverty, agriculture and health care are the big issues for Malawi, where two-thirds of the population lives on less than a dollar a day and Aids has orphaned an estimated one million children.
In the parliamentary election, about 1,100 candidates, including a record number of women, are standing but no party is expected to win an outright majority.
Final results are expected by Thursday.
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