I spoke too soon
- Violence Reported After Malawi Vote
By Raphael Tenthani
Associated Press Writer
Friday, June 18, 1999; 1:15 p.m. EDT
BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) -- Opposition supporters, alleging vote
rigging, went on a rampage Friday in northern Malawi after unofficial
results in the nation's elections gave President Bakili Muluzi an edge,
Police said a mosque was torched in the northern district of Rumphi, and
supporters of the ruling party and the main opposition group clashed and
hurled stones at each other in the northern town of Mzuzu.
Muluzi is a Muslim in the mainly Christian, southern African nation.
Shops and a hotel in Mzuzu owned by a ruling party official were looted
and damaged, the statement said.
An unspecified number of arrests were made and police reinforcements
backed by military helicopters were being sent to a northern region that is
home to opposition leader Chafukwa Chihana, police said. Chihana, a
former labor leader, heads the Alliance for Democracy party.
Earlier Friday, soldiers and riot police dispersed opposition supporters
who stoned cars outside the High Court in the commercial capital,
There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests there. Calm was
restored after senior police officers warned about 500 opposition
supporters in the High Court grounds they would open fire with tear gas
and live ammunition, witnesses said.
Earlier, court officials in Blantyre rejected an opposition request for a
ruling on alleged vote-rigging in this impoverished country's second
democratic elections, held on Tuesday.
The opposition coalition of the Malawi Congress Party and the Alliance
for Democracy withdrew its petition but said it would ask for a hearing
next week on its allegations of vote fraud, said High Court registrar Bitiku
Unofficial results Friday gave Muluzi, who won the country's first
multiparty vote in 1994, 2.4 million votes and alliance rival Gwanda
Chakuamba 2.1 million votes in the presidential race.
Returns from parliamentary constituencies for the 193-seat legislature
were also still to be confirmed, but unofficial tallies put the ruling party and
the alliance level with 94 seats each.
Four other seats were captured by independent candidates and one seat
was nullified after the main candidate died just before polling.
One electoral commission official, Fahad Assani, described the unofficial
tallies, given by party agents across the country and regional offices of the
state-controlled radio Friday, as ``not far from the truth.''
The 1994 election ended three decades of brutal rule under dictator
Kamuzu Banda, who founded the Malawi Congress Party and led the
former British colony of Nyasaland to independence as Malawi. Banda
died in 1997.
Bazuka Mhango, a lawyer for the opposition alliance, said the opposition
alleged registration of Malawi's 4.8 million eligible voters was given
priority in ruling party strongholds mainly in the south.
``There's no way the election can be seen as free and fair. There are clear
indications rigging has taken place,'' Mhango said.
Malawi, a narrow, mountainous Portugal-sized country of 11 million
people, is ranked 161 among the world's 174 least-developed nations.