MBC Online sources across the country say the 12 hours voting, which begun at 6 am and ends at 6 pm, opened smoothly in many polling centres. In Blantyre, thousands of people trooped to the polling centre in downtown near Old Town Hall grounds and opposite the regional government headquarters. Order prevailed at the centre which has over 10,000 registered voters.
“I am done with it. I Know whom I have voted for and I am happy I have exercised my right to vote,” said Isaya Phiri, who vends second hand shoes.
Mutharika is expected to vote at his home village of Goliat, a thriving trading outpost in Thyolo.
Three other main candidates are challenging Mutharika. They are his vice president Saulos Chilima of UTM, who rebelled against Mutharika to form his own party last year, former cleric Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party and Atupele Muluzi of UDF, the son of former president Bakili Muluzi. Until last week, the young Muluzi was Health Minister in the Mutharika administration.
As early as 5 am, queues were reportedly forming outside polling centres across the country among the 6,826,295 registered voters who will choose a president, 193 lawmakers and over 500 municipal councilors.
Mutharika, in power since 2014 when he ousted presidentJoyce Banda, is banking re-election on his delivery of signature infrastructure developments under his governing Democratic Progress party (DPP), which aims to create employment, modernize and industrialize the agriculture-powered economy.
Tested, truied and trusted
“We have been tested, tried and trusted,” Mutharika often says. “I promise what I do and I do what I promise,” he adds.
Mutharika, who has chalked legacy projects such as new tarmac roads, schools and technical colleges among projects that seek to create wealth and jobs in his first term, has his eyes set on industrializing the country to “ improve the quality of life for the citizenry and to create jobs for the youth and women.”
“I want industries for our farmers to get more money for their crops. Nobody should be left behind. I promise and I will continue to deliver in the next five years,” said Mutharika.
He said Malawi should be able to “develop beyond recognition” and reach the status of Tiger countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.
"I am ready to take Malawi further from poverty to prosperity,” he says. “We are a government that has done more development in five years than any other in the history of this country.”
The President said: “Nobody will stop us from improving this economy. Together you and I shall take this country forward. Together you and I are unstoppable, unbreakable and we will make a better Malawi.”
Mutharika says a good network of roads is a panacea for economic development.
DPP Vice President for the South, Kondwani Nankhumwa, told MBC Online that in 2014, the DPP made a solemn pledge to improve the social economic status of Malawians through a comprehensive and 360 degrees improvement in all sectors of the economy; a restructuring of governance systems and improvement in the rule of law.
“This was a social contract between us and Malawians in which the objectives are clear. Malawians have seen and can testify on how DPP has been steadfast on its promises. Malawians have seen the progress that our government has made in ensuring development across all sectors of the economy such as education, health, infrastructure development, energy development, women empowerment and how we plan to continue improving lives of Malawians.”
Nankhumwa, also seeking re-election as MP for Mulanje Central, said there “is a lot of evidence that we have delivered on our promises as DPP.”
“This can be seen in how the economy is performing; how farmers are able to access farm inputs through our subsidy programme; how we have allowed greater access to primary education through our friendly policies and revamped the governing framework of the University system in this country.”
He added: “Malawians are able to see how we have been able to turn around the fortunes of this country from the downwards spiral of 2014 to a steadily ticking economy in just five years and at zero direct government support.