Malawi President Names Cabinet After Winning Historic Vote Rerun

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Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera announced the first appointments to his cabinet, two days after being declared the winner of last week’s court-ordered election rerun.

The former opposition leader chose ex-National Insurance Co. Chief Executive Officer Felix Mlusu as finance minister, while naming two lawyers involved in the cases to overturn last year’s vote outcome -- Chikosa Silungwe and Mordechai Msiska -- as attorney general and justice minister respectively.

Chakwera, 65, took the oath of office Sunday with a pledge to unite the divided nation. His rival in the ballot, incumbent Peter Mutharika, alleged the rerun wasn’t credible, though the nation’s electoral commission said there was no merit to his allegations.

“I know that there are many of you who did not vote for me in this election, and perhaps the prospect of my presidency fills you with fear and grief,” Chakwera said at a ceremony in Lilongwe, the capital. “This new Malawi is a home for you too and so long as I am its president, it will be a home in which you too will prosper.”

The Supreme Court of Appeal, the top judicial authority, last month upheld the Constitutional Court’s annulment of a flawed May 2019 vote that handed Mutharika a second five-year term and sparked a wave of political violence. Chakwera, who was declared runner-up in that vote, then enlisted Saulos Chilima, the nation’s popular vice president who finished third, as his running mate and united the two main opposition parties’ support bases.

Chakwera won the June 23 rerun with 58.5% support, results released on Saturday by the electoral commission, showed.

The court’s decision to nullify last year’s vote and the subsequent transfer of power via the ballot box in the southern African nation has been hailed as a boost for democracy in a continent where democratic processes are all too often abused. Malawi is only the second African nation overturn a presidential-election result, after Kenya in 2017.

The election outcome “is a victory for Malawians,” said George Phiri, a political scientist from the University of Livingstonia in the northern town of Mzuzu. “It is a victory against corruption, tribalism and impunity.”

Thousands of people thronged the streets of Lilongwe and other cities to celebrate Chakwera’s victory, despite the prevalence of the coronavirus. The country has had more than 1,000 confirmed cases so far.

Chakwera, 65, served as president of the Malawi Assemblies of God churches for more than 24 years before being appointed leader of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party in 2013. He holds four degrees, including a theology masters degree from the University of South Africa and a doctorate from the Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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