BLANTYRE, MALAWI – Malawi’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by President Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission and upheld the order for a re-run of the presidential election held a year ago in which Mutharika won a second term.
The court said Friday some of the 137 grounds in Mutharika’s appeal were fictitious and embarrassing. The ruling means the country must proceed with a presidential election re-run scheduled for July 2.
Results of last May’s voting had Mutharika at 38.7%, Lazarus Chakwera of the opposition Malawi Congress Party at 34.1% and Vice President Saulos Chilima, leader of the opposition United Transformation Movement, at 20.2%.
In June, though, Chakwera and Chilima challenged the results in the Constitutional Court, accusing the Malawi Electoral Commission of helping Mutharika to rig the polls.
In its verdict in February, the Constitutional Court nullified the poll results, citing massive irregularities, and ordered fresh elections with 150 days.
Both the MEC and Mutharika appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.
Delivering the verdict Friday, Supreme Court Justice Frank Kapanda said the court found that the irregularities in the election “were not only serious but also troubling”.
“Widespread use of Tip-Ex [correction fluid], illegal alterations of large number of tally sheets, the use of numerous duplicate tally sheets where originals unspeakably went missing. Among other many irregularities established by the court below,” Kapanda said, addind that such irregularities seriously undermined the credibility, integrity and fairness of the elections.
“We agree with the court below that the conduct of the second appellant [MEC] in the management of the 12 May, 2019, general elections, which resulted in gross violations and breached of the constitution and applicable laws, demonstrated serious incompetence and a neglect of duty on the part of electoral commissioners in multiple dimensions,” Kapanda said.
The Supreme Court also upheld the Constitutional Court’s order that the winner should get at least 50% plus one of the votes.
However, it ordered that no new voter registrations should be accepted for the new polls and that only presidential candidates who participated in the nullified May elections should be allowed to run in the rematch.
The Supreme Court ruling means that MEC should stop the ongoing new voter registration exercise which was expected to end June 7.
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa says the commission respects the court ruling and would announce its next move at an appropriate time.
Presidential candidate Chakwera said the verdict has demonstrated impartiality on the part of the country’s judicial system.
“I am so happy. I could dance if I had dancing legs and I think our Supreme Court justices have just continued to uphold the bar that was raised by the Constitutional Court and we believe that Malawi will sent an example not in just the African continent and across the world that if you seek justice you can find it,” Chakwera said.