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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Confusion over Malawi poll result
Polling station in Malawi
Electoral officials say some results may be ready by midnight
There is concern in Malawi that no official results have yet been posted from the presidential election, almost a day after voting closed.

Despite this, state radio is broadcasting results - putting the ruling party's candidate in the lead.

The BBC's Chakuchanya Harawa in the city of Blantyre says this has annoyed opposition parties.

Malawian state-run media had been accused of bias towards the governing United Democratic Front.

Voting was reportedly calm in Thursday's elections, despite earlier allegations of irregularities.

Opposition parties had accused the authorities of altering the electoral roll without consulting them - a complaint which caused the vote, originally scheduled for Tuesday, to be delayed.

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Bingu wa Mutharika, UDF
Gwanda Chakuamba, Republican Party
Brown Mpinganjira, NDA
John Tembo, MCP
Justin Malewezi, Independent

Turn-out on Thursday is reported to have been very high, as many queued for hours to elect a replacement for President Bakili Muluzi, who is reluctantly leaving after two terms in office.

At a news conference on Friday, election commission officials said early results might be available by midnight.

Chief elections officer Roosevelt Gondwe said final results should be announced by Saturday evening.

According to the unofficial results, Gwanda Chakuamba of the Republican Party is leading in the north, John Tembo from the former ruling Malawi Congress Party is ahead in the centre, while the ruling party's Bingu wa Mutharika and Mr Chakuamba are tied in the south.

'Serious inadequacies'

Observers are so far split on the conduct of the poll, with the European Union team giving it a broad thumbs up, while the Commonwealth refused to declare it "free and fair".

HAVE YOUR SAY
I always wonder why elections in Africa are treated with a lot of scepticism.
Judith Akolo, Nairobi, Kenya

"There were no serious incidents in the country as far as we know and it is a very good sign," EU observer mission leader Marieke Sandersten Holt told AFP news agency.

The head of the Commonwealth team, former Tanzanian Prime Minister Joseph Warioba, agreed that the poll had been peaceful but also pointed to hitches.

"We noted the serious inadequacies in the registration process and the inability of the electoral commission to resolve some important issues," he said, including the fact that several voters' rolls were used.

He also said he was "deeply concerned about the gross bias of the public media and the misuse of the advantages of incumbency."

"People cannot afford luxuries like beer" - Malawians speak out about the issues that affect how they vote.

AP news agency reports that polling was postponed in six of the 193 parliamentary districts due to errors with ballot papers.

The election supervisor and local police turned up drunk and ballot boxes were found unsealed at one polling station in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

They had to be rushed to hospital after they were beaten up by angry voters and polling was postponed by several hours.

Aids, which affects 14% of the population, and poverty are seen as the main election issues, along with public services such as health and education.




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