Virginia Palmer

The US ambassador to Malawi was on Thursday forced to hurriedly leave the main opposition party’s headquarters as police fired teargas at protests outside over alleged election fraud, she told AFP.

Supporters of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had gathered in the capital Lilongwe in an ongoing protest campaign after the May 21 presidential election, which their leader Lazarus Chakwera narrowly lost.

“It was my farewell call and I was saying thank you for the friendship and for the important role that he has done for Malawi over the four-and-a-half years I have been in Malawi,” ambassador Virginia Palmer told AFP.

“Just as we finished the meeting, apparently rocks were thrown and the police responded with teargas.

“There was teargas flying around, but my security people came and we proceeded out without incident.”

MCP activists allege that Chakwera was robbed of victory in the election, which an official count showed he lost by just 159 000 votes.

Chakwera has rejected the outcome as “daylight robbery” and launched a court battle to have the result annulled on the grounds of fraud.

The MCP has said there was correction fluid on many election results sheets while some from polling stations far apart bore the same handwriting.

“I just call on all parties in Malawi to exercise restraint and proceed peacefully while the MCP court case is going forward,” Palmer, who is due to leave her Malawi posting shortly, said.

“This is a peaceful country and a democratic country and we all need to respect these norms.”

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