BLANTYRE, MALAWI – The chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Jane Ansah, has resigned just a month before the country conducts fresh elections. Her decision comes after months of protests organized by rights campaigners who accused her of mismanaging last year’s elections.
Announcing her resignation on state television Thursday night, Ansah said her decision is not because of the pressure from protesters but in respect of the rule of law. Political analysts say her decision was long overdue.
Ansah’s resignation comes a few weeks after Malawi’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a Constitutional Court ruling that nullified last year’s elections in which President Peter Mutharika won a second term.
In its May 8 ruling, the Supreme Court found Ansah and her commissioners incompetent, citing massive irregularities including the use of correctional fluid.
However, Ansah said her resignation is not an admission of wrongdoing.
“In fact, I don’t regret. I did the best. I have worked very well, truthfully with clean hands and that’s it. I live full of confidence,” Ansah said.
Since June of last year, Ansah has been the target of protests calling for her resignation over her handling of last year’s disputed election.
However, Ansah, a judge at the High Court, said she did not bow to protesters’ demand, to avoid setting a bad precedent.
“In [the] future, if a judge is writing a judgment and you sit and there is uproar because of that judgment, and they demand that judge should resign. Should the judge resign? And not be heard? I believe democracy must be preserved in this country at any cost and that is why I did not resign,” Ansah said.
Political analyst Vincent Kondowe welcomed Ansah’s decision, but said she could have resigned soon after the Constitutional court’s judgment and not waited for the Supreme Court’s decision.
“In the first place, the whole decision of the Electoral Commission, appealing, was in itself very ill conceived. They are a referee between political parties, so she was appealing on behalf of who?” Kondowe said.
Malawi is expected to conduct fresh elections on June 23 following the court order in February for a new poll within 150 days.
However, the election will now come nearly three weeks after the mandates of the rest of the election commissioners expire, June 5.
This means that Malawi’s President Mutharika should appoint another electoral commission to handle preparations for the fresh polls.
Government spokesperson Mark Botoman told VOA that Mutharika is yet to decide on the way forward.
“Let us wait and see on what the president is going to do. Obviously, we cannot preempt the decision whatever the president is going to make. But what is obvious is that we need commissioners to take care of the events around preparations for next elections, so let us wait and see,” Botoman said.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition which has been organizing demonstrations against Ansah says they are happy with her resignation and that they will continue pushing for the resignation of remaining commissioners.