Blantyre - Malawi's incumbent President Peter Mutharika was in the lead after 75% of the votes were counted in this week's election.
Official results showed Mutharika had captured 40% of the ballots cast in the southern African nation, putting him on track for a second term.
Mutharika's main challenger, former Christian pastor Lazarus Chakwera of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), followed with 35% of the vote, the electoral commission said.
The incumbent's estranged deputy, Saulos Chilima, meanwhile received 18% in Tuesday's polls.
Mutharika, who runs the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has promised a leaner cabinet and better infrastructure, but his first term in office saw failures in curbing corruption.
Malawi's 6.8 million also elected a new parliament and local government councillors in the poverty-stricken former British colony.
About 70% of Malawi's population of roughly 20 million people live under USD$2, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The nation is also still reeling from Cyclone Idai, which caused dozens of deaths and devastation in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in March.dpa