High turnout at Malawi presidential polls.

Nearly six million voters throughout Malawi can elect a new president Tuesday out of the seven candidates in the race, but the top contenders appear to be incumbent Bingu Wa Mutharika and opposition chief John Tembo. Tembo is backed by former President Bakili Muluzi whom courts last week prevented from running for a third term.

“There is a large turnout, people are exercising their right to vote,” said Mutharika after casting his ballot this morning.

Hunger and development were the catchwords in the campaigns as Malawians still remember a 2005 famine that crippled the country. Half of the 13-million-strong population lives on less than one dollar a day, while one in ten adults are HIV-positive.

Mutharika is an economist who was responsible for seed and fertiliser subsidies which boosted food security after the famine.

Former President Bakili Muluzi, who had wanted to to run for this election until the courts banned him last week from trying for a third term, originally backed Mutharika five years ago. But the two fell out over corruption issues.

Muluzi put his weight behind Malawi Congress Party’s John Tembo, who has enjoyed a surge in popularity. Tembo was the former right-hand man to late dictator Hastings Kanuzu Banda, and had trouble shaking the taint of his regime until Muluzi’s endorsement.

The two main contenders are well over the age of 70.

Voters will also be picking the parliament, and results in the two races are expected Thursday.

Radio France International


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