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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Q&A: Malawi's troubled poll
Bingu wa Mutharika
Mr Mutharika was hand-picked by outgoing President Muluzi
Malawi's opposition is deeply unhappy about the conduct of last week's election, which led to the inauguration of ruling party candidate Bingu wa Mutharika as the new president.

There have been violent protests in suburbs of the largest city, Blantyre, and the poll was also criticised by election observers.

Were the elections free and fair?

Officials deny any wrong-doing.

Observers welcomed the peaceful nature of polling but pointed to "serious shortcomings".

The Commonwealth and European Union observers noted problems with the electoral roll and the bias of state media.

"Problems with the voters' roll were apparent in around one-third of stations observed," said the EU team.

The Commonwealth mission said the poll was free but not fair.

The election was delayed by two days after the opposition complained that voters did not have enough time to inspect the voter's roll.

The opposition was also suspicious that it took three days after polling before the results were released.

What is the opposition doing?

Supporters of Gwanda Chakuamba went on the rampage in suburbs of the largest city, Blantyre, as soon as Mr Mutahrika was declared the winner.

The violence continued as he was being sworn in as president.

Mr Chakuamba says he won the election, despite finishing third, and his alliance of parties are have challenged the results in court.

Presidential runner-up John Tembo and his former ruling Malawi Congress Party have also gone to court seeking a re-run of the whole polls.

Is the opposition united?

Not yet - if they had fielded a single candidate, they would have won because Mr Mutharika only won 35% of the vote but this was more than anyone else.

Bingu wa Mutharika, UDF: 35%
John Tembo, MCP: 27%
Gwanda Chakuamba, Mgwirizano: 26%
MCP: 59 seats
UDF: 49 seats
Mgwirizano: 27 seats
Independents: 38 seats
Others: 14
By-elections needed in 6 seats
Turnout: 52%
Source: Malawi Election Commission

The MCP won the most seats in parliament - 59 - and was slower to condemn the results than Mr Chakuamba, who came third in the presidential race.

But Mr Tembo said he would consult with other opposition rivals about their next course of action and has also refused to back Mr Mutharika in parliament, which would have secured a majority for the new president.

So will parliament back the president?

It would be difficult for him to govern if parliament rejects the laws he proposes.

Mr Mutharika's United Democratic Front only won 49 seats in the 193-seat parliament.

But many of the 38 independents are originally from the UDF and may be persuaded to return.

And UDF ally Aford has six seats.

This would still be four short of a majority, but voting was postponed in six areas. If the UDF won all of those seats, it would just obtain a majority.

In any case, it looks unlikely that Mr Mutharika will be able to secure a large majority.

Constitutional expert Edge Kanyongolo says this means that parliament will be more powerful in the next few years.

What is the international community doing?

Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries and is heavily dependent on funds from western donors.

If the European Union were to cut off aid in protest at the elections, Mr Mutharika would be in serious trouble.

But despite the criticism of the poll, there has been no hint of that yet and the EU was careful to start its report on a positive note.

The EU has made similar criticisms of elections in Zambia and Nigeria and did not take any action.


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