Malawian President Arthur Peter Mutharika. Picture: Amos Gumulira

Blantyre, Malawi - Malawi police are investigating a fire in a government warehouse that destroyed ballot boxes containing votes from a disputed election just days after a court ordered a recount, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Opposition parties claim that the fire was deliberately started to destroy evidence that could have overturned the parliamentary victory of a member of newly elected President Peter Mutharika's party.

Police Inspector General Lot Dzodzi told state television that police had called in experts to probe the fire, which happened on Monday night.

The warehouse contained 1 500 ballot boxes, gas cylinders and gas lamps used during the May 20 elections.

Last week, a high court in the capital Lilongwe ordered a recount of the votes in a constituency that was won by Bently Namasasu, a candidate for Mutharika's ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Opposition Malawi Congress Party candidate Ulemu Msungama, who lost the election by 98 votes, had challenged the results and the case was due back in court on Thursday.

“We are suspicious of the fire because it comes after a court order to recount the votes. We believe it is a grand conspiracy to hide the truth,” Ken Ndanga, a spokesman for the opposition United Democratic Front, told AFP.

“We are yet to establish the cause of the fire,” chief elections officer Willie Kalonga told AFP.

The electoral commission does not link the fire to the court dispute at this stage and will await the results of the police investigation, he said.

Despite widespread allegations of cheating, outgoing president Joyce Banda conceded defeat.