Blantyre - An initial vote count in Malawi's controversial presidential elections has been completed but the result will not be released until court challenges to the disputed ballot have been resolved, an official said on Wednesday
The source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the unofficial count showed that Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party was in the lead with 36 percent of the vote.
Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party had polled second with 28 percent, while President Joyce Banda was in third place with 20 percent of the vote, he said.
“The positions have not changed,” the official said, referring to preliminary results announced last Friday after about a third of the votes had been counted.
Electoral commission spokesman Sangwani Mwafulirwa refused to comment on the claim.
Banda has attempted to declared the vote “null and void”, saying it was marred by “serious irregularities”, and court orders and injunctions have flown back and forth.
The commission said this week it would conduct a recount and asked the court to delay an announcement of the results.
The official, who is close to the commission, said lawyers for the electoral body were trying to make sense of the court orders before deciding official next steps.
The court orders include a contempt of court charge filed against commissioners for defying an order to stop the recount.
Mutharika's legal team said it would launch a high court action on Wednesday to compel the electoral body to announce the results within eight days as required by law.
“The law is very clear on how the commission should determine the outcome of the elections...within eight days,” attorney Kalekeni Kaphale told AFP.
“Malawians are being held to ransom by the electoral body for not announcing the results as the law stipulates,” he said.
Electoral commission chairman Maxon Mbendera, who is himself a appeal's judge at the supreme court, has defied a series of court injunctions and vowed to press ahead with a monitored recount of the ballots.
The recount could take up to 30 days and no results would be released before then, he said.
In some places the number of votes cast was reportedly greater than the number of voters.
Mbendera said on Tuesday the results for the disputed centres had been taken aside and “we are examining them closely to check for possible errors.”