Army deployed as riots mar Malawi election

Soldiers have been deployed in

Malawi's commercial capital Blantyre after

voters, angered by delays and mishaps at

polling stations in the hotly

contested presidential election, torched voting

materials and blocked roads.

Polling stations had opened as much as 10

hours late on Tuesday, sparking anger

and speculation about the fairness of the vote.

Some polling stations did not have enough

ballot papers and ink.

"We come here at 4 in the morning to vote.

Up to 9am there is no voting. There is no ink

to vote," a voter told Al Jazeera.

At another polling station in Blantyre, a

crowd torched election materials when they

arrived hours late and in other constituencies

they blocked roads with rocks before

the military arrived to back up police, Reuters

news agency reported.

In the city centre angry youths staged an

impromptu mini-protest chanting anti-

government slogans.

Voting extended

Voting was extended for several hours in some

locations, and the electoral commission said

voting would continue on Wednesday at polling

stations where balloting was disrupted.

Election chief Maxon Mbendera acknowledged

an "embarrassing situation" with the

organisational hiccups.

"Defence Force personnel will deploy to

strengthen the presence and security already

being provided by the Malawi Police Service,"

the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

Thirteen polling stations, far less than one

percent of the more than 4,000 voting centres

around the country, "where polling papers

were destroyed or there were serious disruptions of the polling

process" will re-open on Wednesday, he said.

Some challengers of incumbent President Joyce

Banda, southern Africa's first female head of

state, had already cried foul in the election

run-up, saying they had unearthed plots to

skew the ballot.

Opinion polls indicate the presidential poll is

too close to call, but many analysts

rank People's Party leader Banda as favourite

because of her popularity in rural areas where

she has been rolling out development projects

and farm subsidies.

After casting her ballot in the southern village

of Malemia, Banda urged all sides to keep


"I'm thankful that the campaign period was

peaceful and am urging all Malawians to vote

peacefully today without any incident or loss

of life," she told reporters.

Corruption scandal

Banda came to power in the landlocked,

impoverished nation two years ago after the

death of her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika.

She initially enjoyed huge goodwill from the

many who disliked Mutharika's autocratic

style, and won the backing of foreign donors

and the International Monetary Fund when she

pushed through austerity measures, including a

sharp devaluation of the kwacha, to stabilise

the farming-dependent economy.

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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