[JURIST] Malawi President Joyce Banda [BBC profile] announced [press release] Saturday that, due to extreme irregularities in the voting process, she is nullifying the national tripartite results for the presidential, parliamentary and local elections. President Banda cited as her authority Section 88(2) [text, PDF] of the Malawi Constitution, which states that the president shall have the responsibility to "provide executive leadership in the interest of national unity." However, some have questioned [Malawi Voice report] her power to nullify results. Upon hearing Banda's petition to nullify the results late on Saturday, the Supreme Court of Malawi [official website] ordered [Reuters report] that the votes continue to be counted, although there will be a careful analysis of allegations of fraud. Some sources are declaring [Malawi 24 report] Banda's opponent, Arthur Mutharika, the unofficial winner. Earlier this week, President Banda expressed concern [statement, Malawi Voice] to the Elections Committee about reports of election official being arrested, stoning of election offices and general unrest. Although she announced that elections will take place in the next 90 days, President Banda stated that she will not run [Malawi Voice report] for re-election again, raising questions as to who will take her place on the election ballot.
Malawi [State Department backgrounder, official website] is the tenth poorest nation in the world, and has struggled to stabilize in recent years-in large part due to the rivalry between the presidential candidates. In March Human Rights Watch called [JURIST report] on Malawi to end child marriage, reporting that over 50% of female children are married before the age of 18. In January, President Banda's administration [official website] became embroiled [BBC report] in a widespread corruption scandal. However, since entering office, President Banda has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as #47 [Forbes summary] on the Forbes Top 100 List of the World's Most Powerful Women of 2013 and was a finalist [Nyasa Times report] the Forbes Africa Person of the Year Award in 2012. President Banda came to power in 2012 after then-President and former World Bank Economist, Peter Mutharika, suddenly and unexpectedly died in office [BBC report].