Malawi welcomes its new president | Africa | DW | 02.06.2014
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Africa

Malawi welcomes its new president

Peter Mutharika has been inaugurated as Malawi's fifth president. The ceremony marks the end of a chaotic election period. Outgoing President Joyce Banda shunned the ceremony.

Crowds gathered in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, to witness the inauguration. Peter Mutharika becomes the country's fifth leader since the country's independence from Britain in 1964. His brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, ruled the country for eight years before he died of a heart attack in 2012.

"We are determined to change the direction of the economy," the new president promised the crowd. Malawi's economy was a key issue during the electoral campaign. As his running-mate and vice-president, Peter Mutharika chose Saulos Chilima, an economist and manager of a telecommunications firm.

Looking for new friends

Joyce Banda votes

Joyce Banda accepted defeat but had previously called the elections null and void.

The economy is expected to grow by about 6 percent in 2014, yet Malawi still tops up about 40 percent of its budget through aid from international donors. "We will continue with traditional relationships, but we are now looking for new friends in emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Russia," Mutharika said.

In recent years, Malawi's economy had taken a downturn. The currency, the Kwacha had to be devaluated and in 2013 a major corruption scandal, which came to be known a the cashgate scandal, made negative headlines.

Mutharika has indicated that he plans to cut government spending, by slimming down his cabinet from 30 to 20 ministers. James Kanache, a political analyst, told DW that he was looking forward to Mutharika's new government. "I think it will be a good government, knowing Peter Mutharika as a man who understands the government we have seen this during the presidential debate. If he can live by what he said then I think things can change for the better."

In Mutharika's home district of Thyolo, just outside Blantyre, people had mixed views about their new president and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). A civil servant told DW that he was happy that life in Malawi would now go back to normal after the elections.

Another man said that he still doubted the election results and added: "Let them build Malawi and ensure that we live as one country. [Mutharika] should not be a dictator because his brother was getting close to being a dictator."

ARCHIV Malawi Präsident Bingu wa Mutharika in Addis Ababa Äthiopien

19 people were killed during protests against the government of the late President Bingu wa Mutahrika.

Banda shuns inauguration

Malawi's outgoing President Joyce Banda boycotted the ceremony. Peter Mutharika stated that he regretted her absence, adding that he was willing to put the past behind him. Banda had previously accused Mutharika of plotting to overthrow her after she took over presidential responsibilities in 2012. At the time Peter Mutharika was the country's foreign minister.

Banda's spokesperson said that she had not been officially invited and that her presidential convoy had been withdrawn as soon as Peter Mutharika was announced as the winner of the elections.

Malawi's electoral process was marred by logistical errors from the first day of voting. Ballot papers were not delivered on time and the voting period was extended into a second day. The electoral commission itself admitted irregularities in the polling and ordered a recount of the votes in some areas. The chaotic nature of the elections lead to demonstrations in towns and cities and one teenager was killed as a result.

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