Electoral commission workers and other stakeholders recount votes during Malawi's national elections on May 24, 2014, at the National Tally Centre in Blantyre. File picture: Amos Gumulira

Blantyre -

Malawi's presidential elections were free, fair and credible despite irregularities, the electoral chief declared on Thursday as he prepared to release results of the disputed vote.

“I can comfortably say this election was free and fair... It was also transparent, it was also, in my assessment, credible,” electoral commission chief Maxon Mbendera said.

The credibility of elections in the small southern African country has been thrown into question after anomalies discovered in dozens of the votes from over 4 000 polling stations.

The troubles have spilled into the courts, where the opposition Malawi Congress Party, whose presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera was running second in preliminary results, is seeking a recount.

But the Democratic Progressive Party led by Peter Mutharika, who was leading the vote in early results, has teamed up with the electoral commission lawyers to prevent the 30-day extension for a recount.

Admitting having come across evidence of “anomalies”, the electoral commission chief said 99 percent of the voting was “trouble-free” and that the people had expressed their will.

The elections body vowed it would continue to prepare to announce the presidential results on Friday in accordance with the law unless the court rules otherwise.

“Whatever the court directs, that we will do,” said Mbendera.

By law, the commission is obliged to release the results within eight days of the vote and that deadline lapses midnight on Friday.

Earlier on Thursday, the court case had run into hitches after a judge initially appointed to hear the case, Healy Potani, had to recuse himself because his brother is a member of the electoral commission.

A replacement judge, Kenyatta Nyirenda, was later appointed and is expected to make a ruling on Friday.

Meanwhile, President Joyce Banda, who was shown to be running third, last week called the vote “null and void”, saying it was marred by “serious irregularities”, and called for fresh elections.

The elections chief insisted “the outcome of the result does not really matter, the process took place in the purview of everyone who cared to check it”.

The AU has concluded that voting was conducted in a “largely transparent manner”. - Sapa-AFP