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Monday, June 21, 1999 Published at 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK


World: Africa

Malawi opposition fails to stop swearing in

Opponents argued President Muluzi had not secured enough votes

Bakili Muluzi has been sworn in for a second term as Malawian president - despite a legal attempt by the opposition to stop the ceremony.

Dr Muluzi and vice president Justin Malewezi took the oath of office in Blantyre, in front of a crowd estimated at 80,000.

The president arrived in a red Rolls Royce along a road lined with singing and dancing women.

The opposition alliance - comprising the former ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) - had lodged an application in the High Court, arguing Dr Muluzi had not secured the constitutionally required majority in last weeks' presidential election.

They said his 51% share of the vote was calculated from votes cast, and not on the basis of registered voters.

No judge available

Dr Muluzi won only 48.1% of the total number of registered voters, two percentage points less than the constitutional requirement, opposition lawyer Bazuka Mhango said.

The case is still pending, since no judge was available to hear the application before the swearing-in took place.

According to one report, this was because all the judges had been invited to the inauguration.

In the parliamentary poll which took place simultaneously with the presidential vote, President Muluzi's United Democratic Front won the largest number of seats but narrowly missed an outright majority.

Arrests follow election riots

Police have meanwhile arrested 35 people in connection with post-election violence in northerm Malawi, where 10 mosques were burned, and property belonging to UDF supporters was looted.

The violence flared up last Friday as it became apparent that Dr Muluzi was on the way to victory.

The burning of the mosques appears to be in response to the fact that Dr Muluzi is a Muslim.

One person died in the riots in the northern Rumphi district.

And a young woman was killed when police opened fire on a crowd of UDF supporters who were said to be looting opposition party offices in the central town of Mangoche.

Rally in Lilongwe

As Dr Muluzi was sworn in, the leader of the MCP/Aford alliance, Gwanda Chakuamba was addressing a rally of supporters in the capital, Lilongwe.

Last week, the alliance launched a fruitless attempt to delay the official announcement of election results, arguing that problems with voter registration in the north and central regions had made the poll unfair.

Before the election, independent monitors had also expressed concern about the registration programme.

But on Friday, a spokesman for the international electoral observers said the elections were "substantially free, fair and acceptable."



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