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Malawi president files for election re-run with ex-leader's son

The Constitutional Court has annulled the May 21 vote and called for fresh polls, citing widespread irregularities and fraud.

Malawi’s President and president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Peter Mutharika (L on pick-up truck)stands with his electoral running mate Atupele Muluzi (R on pick-up truck) the president for United Democratic Front, which has gone into an electoral alliance with the ruling party, leave the Mount Soche hotel in Blantyre on 7 May 2020. Picture: AFP

BLANTYRE - Malawian President Peter Mutharika on Thursday joined forces with a former president's son for a rerun of elections that he narrowly won in disputed circumstances.

The Constitutional Court has annulled the 21 May vote and called for fresh polls, citing widespread irregularities and fraud.

Mutharika, 79, filed his nomination papers on Thursday for the 2 July rerun alongside his new running mate -- Atupele Muluzi, the 41-year old son of ex-president Bakili Muluzi, who ruled Malawi from 1994 to 1999.

Atupele Muluzi served as health minister during Mutharika's first term and contested last year's presidential election, coming in a distant fourth.

"Together we will be the bridge to the future, together we will win this election," the president told supporters in the second city of Blantyre.

Crowds of people in the two parties' blue and yellow colours thronged the streets, ignoring a anti-coronavirus ban on public gatherings of more than 50.

"We won that (May 21) election," Mutharika said. "This election is not the will of the people."

"Therefore, I call upon all Malawians to come out and vote in this election to express the will of the people."

Only three of 10 expected candidates have presented credentials to run in the upcoming poll.

Opposition figures Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima filed their nomination papers on Wednesday.

Mutharika was declared winner of the disputed elections with 38.5% of the vote.

Chakwera's Malawi Congress Party came a close second, garnering 35%, while Chilima's United Transformation Movement came third with 20%.

Those two parties have joined forces under Chakwera's banner to maximise their chances of unseating the president.

The third candidate is Peter Kuwani, whose party only racked up 0.4% of the vote last May.

It is the first time a presidential election has been challenged on legal grounds in Malawi since independence from Britain in 1964.

Mutharika has denounced the landmark ruling as a "serious miscarriage of justice" and an "attack on the foundations of the country’s democracy".

He has also refused assent to the proposed electoral law amendments, notably one that requires a more than 50% majority to secure a win.

Both the president and the electoral commission have appealed against the election annulment.

The Supreme Court of Appeal is scheduled to deliver a ruling on Mutharika's case Friday.