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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 May, 2004, 23:54 GMT 00:54 UK
Malawi hopeful claims poll win
By Raphael Tenthani
BBC, Blantyre

Gwanda Chakuamba
Chakuamba urged his supporters and police to avoid confrontation
In the absence of official results, an opposition candidate has declared himself winner of Malawi's elections.

Gwanda Chakuamba, 69, who leads the Mgwirizano coalition of seven small political parties, said he was the "rightful president-elect".

He said figures from NGOs, "independent and reliable sources" and his own monitors put him clearly in the lead.

Problems with Thursday's ballot have been identified by the Malawi Electoral Commission and international observers.

Malawi is one of the world's poorest nations and free elections to choose a successor to President Bakili Muluzi could be key to securing development aid.

Exit polls 'false'

Mr Chakuamba said his figures put John Tembo of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) second and Bingu wa Mutharika of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) third.

I request the losers to put aside their aspirations and accept the decision of the majority of Malawians as shown by the voting
Gwanda Chakuamba
In a statement, he claimed exit polls published by the state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) which give Mr Mutharika a slight edge were "false and manipulated to give a desired result.

"The results from the monitors of Mgwirizano Coalition, from the church and civil society, independent NGOs and others indicate that Gwanda Chakuamba is already leading in the presidential race," he said.

"I am therefore the rightful president elect, based on figures from the actual polling centres."

Mr Chakuamba went on to urge his supporters to celebrate peacefully.

Tear gas

Opposition supporters took to the streets Saturday, protesting the continued delay in releasing the results.

Police used teargas and rubber bullets to break up the demonstrations.

Polling station in Malawi
Outside observers are worried by the conduct of the poll
Mr Chakuamba said demonstrations had been reported in the economic capital Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba, Mzuzu and other towns.

He urged "police and the army not to provoke the situation but to protect and respect the peaceful demonstrations and celebrations".

Mr Chakuamba, who held various positions in the late dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda's autocratic regime, also claimed the Muluzi administration was already rehearsing an inauguration ceremony for Mr Mutharika.

He urged the "losers" of the elections "to put aside their aspirations and accept the decision of the majority of Malawians as shown by the voting".

'Inadequacies'

Observers from the European Union have identified shortcomings in the election, including problems with the voters' roll in about one-third of polling stations, abuse of state resources and biased media coverage.

Commonwealth monitors have also complained of "serious inadequacies".

Chief Elections Officer Roosevelt Gondwe said he was unable to comment.


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