Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday called for unity as he was sworn in for a second five-year term after an election in which top opposition parties alleged irregularities.
The 78-year-old Mutharika began his acceptance speech by declaring “I am not dead!” to address persistent rumors ahead of the vote. He added that “it is time to move on and develop the country.”
He narrowly won re-election in the southern African nation with 38% of the votes in last week’s poll, while main opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera received 35%. The results were announced on Monday.
Shortly after the swearing-in, police were seen firing tear gas outside the headquarters of Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party. Neither the party nor police immediately commented.
Chakwera had called for a recount in 10 of Malawi’s 28 districts but the electoral commission declined, saying the results had been checked at several stages. He obtained an injunction over the weekend that briefly stopped the commission from announcing final election results but the country’s High Court on Monday threw it out.
Mutharika’s former deputy Saulos Chilima finished third with 20% of the vote and on Monday went to court to petition for the nullification of the election, alleging serious anomalies. The 46-year-old split from Mutharika months ago and tried to appeal to the country’s youth, who make up a majority of voters.
“There’s a time to argue and time to agree,” Mutharika said on Tuesday. “Malawi is the only country we all have.” He thanked the leaders of political parties and urged them to accept that “there can only be one winner at a time.”
Businesses appeared to return to normal after many had closed in anticipation of possible violence by opposition supporters.
According to the official results, 5.1 million people voted in Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries, representing 74% of registered voters.