The elections commission had to extend voting in some urban areas into a second or third day, and initial counting was held up by a lack of lighting and generators at polling stations.
The security detail for the chairman of the elections commission, Judge Maxon Mbendera, was increased. His Commissioners also had to be protected round the clock because of the numerous threats they were receiving.
Thirty minutes before midnight on 30 May, the eighth day following the closure of voting, tension in the country’s major cities was high. The government deployed armed police and the military patrolled the most volatile townships ready to move in and quell any violent protests.
Under her presidency, the economy’s rate of growth accelerated from 1.8% to over 6%
High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda was expected to make a ruling in a few hours on whether to allow the elections commission to recount individual ballots across the country or order the authorities to announce the winner.
At 10:30pm the next day, his ruling finally came. He initially announced that the MEC was entitled to perform a recount, giving hope to those who opposed a Mutharika victory.
But Nyirenda added that any such recount would have to be performed within the commission’s eight-day counting period. In other words, if the MEC wanted to manually recount around six million votes, it had an hour and a half to do so.
The MEC had no time to do a recount and behold Mutharika, a law professor, was announced the winner just before midnight and quickly sworn in the following day. While Banda clearly would have wanted to win the elections, it seems she was more anxious to ensure Mutharika did not. After all, it was her government that arrested him and charged him with treason for trying to stop her from ascending to power after Bingu wa Muntharika died in office.
A prominent woman rights activist and philanthropist, Joyce Banda came to power with a groundswell of support. But by the time the country went to the polls, she had lost most of it, especially the urban vote, mainly because of the infamous Cashgate – the alleged looting of over $15m from public coffers, which many believe may have contributed to her losing the election.
Banda perhaps fears that Mutharika will return the favour, although he has stated publicly that he will not seek revenge for his ill-treatment under Banda.
But Mutharika’s new government will rule a divided country because he only won with 36% of the vote – meaning that over 60% of the voters did not vote for him.
Banda was hailed by the international community for repealing repressive laws, restoring relations with the diplomatic community, and she will also be remembered for empowering women among her other achievements.
Under her presidency, the economy’s rate of growth accelerated from 1.8% to over 6%, and the foreign reserves position improved markedly for the country, which was in dire straits before she took over, experiencing shortages of fuel and other commodities.
But Onandi Banda, a rights activist, sums up Banda’s legacy when he says that she will be remembered more for her last act in the last eight days of her presidency. “Many of us will never forget Joyce Banda and [her] quickly conceding defeat when all of us knew that there was overwhelming evidence of rigging … her decision swiftly stopped anyone who was planning violence in protest against the MEC and the High Court and facilitated a peaceful transition,” he said.