World Bulletin/News Desk
Malawi's ruling People Party has found "serious irregularities" in the counting and announcement of results from the southern African nation's May 20 election, President Joyce Banda said on Thursday, raising fears of a disputed outcome and violence.
Reports included hackers breaking in to Malawi Election Commission (MEC) computers and ballot tallies exceeding the number of registered voters in some constituencies, prompting Banda to demand a manual count.
"It has come to my attention that there are some serious irregularities in the counting and announcement of results in some parts of the country," Banda said in a statement.
The MEC said late on Wednesday it was abandoning its digital results platform, fuelling suspicions of skulduggery after a catalogue of mishaps surrounding the poll.
The only result released so far - a partial tally put out by the private Zodiak radio station - gave opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Peter Mutharika, the brother of late President Bingu wa Mutharika, a narrow lead.
Mutharika said police and soldiers had been sent to his residence in the capital, Lilongwe, to search for a "hacking machine" but were refused entry because they had no warrant.
The poll has been plagued by problems from the outset, with voting materials turning up hours late and ballot papers being sent to the wrong end of the country, infuriating voters in the impoverished, landlocked nation.
Organisers had to extend voting in some urban areas into a second day and initial counting was held up by a lack of lighting and generators at polling stations.
"It's true we've faced logistical difficulties but we are working day and night to fix the problems and make this election credible," MEC head Maxon Mbendera told Reuters.
The elections are the tightest since the end of one-party rule 20 years ago.
In the absence of reliable opinion polls, most analysts had picked Banda - southern Africa's first female head of state - as narrow favourite, although recently her popularity with voters and foreign donors has been hit by a corruption scandal.