Malawi Court Rejects Mutharika’s Appeal, Setting Up Election Re-Run

  • "The various breaches undermined the duties of the Malawi Electoral Commission and grossly undermined rights of voters."
  • In his appeal, Mutharika had indicated that the judges had “erred in law.”
  • The two main candidates in the elections, Chakwera and Mutharika, have already officially filed their candidacies for the repeat election.

Malawi’s Supreme Court today upheld the annulment of President Peter Mutharika’s narrow election victory last year, citing gross fraud. The decision paves the way for new elections to be held on July 2 this year. In a judgment that was eagerly awaited by many Malawians, Justice Frank Kapanda announced the dismissal of the appeal in the nation’s capital, Lilongwe.

General elections were held in Malawi on 21 May 2019 to elect the President, National Assembly and local government councillors. Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party was re-elected, with his party remaining the largest in the National Assembly. However, on 3 February 2020, the Constitutional Court annulled the presidential election results due to evidence of irregularities, and ordered fresh elections be held.

The appeal to a lower court ruling had been brought by Mutharika and the Local Election Commission (LEC) against the annulment of the 2019 election that saw Mutharika retain his position, albeit narrowly. “The various breaches undermined the duties of the Malawi Electoral Commission and grossly undermined rights of voters,” the Supreme Court said, in its unanimous verdict. “None of the candidates obtained a majority.”

The justices considered in their decision that “the tampering with the results was illegal and constituted a serious irregularity.” They also advanced an argument that the electoral commission’s move to jointly appeal the earlier nullification was a step in the wrong direction. As per the judge’s conclusion, the move by the electoral body was a clear indicator that the commission had long taken sides when it ought to have remained an independent public institution. 

“The conduct of the electoral commission left a lot to be desired,” Justice Kapanda said. “There was a lack of seriousness and incompetence.” Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa said the high court found Mutharika’s appeal “clearly unprofessional and embarrassing.”

As Mutasa reported, “Mutharika has always said last year’s presidential election was free and fair but the Constitutional Court said there just too many irregularities and some results were changed using typewriter or correction fluid.”

In his appeal, Mutharika had indicated that the judges had “erred in law,” in their earlier ruling that nullified his so-called win. “We find that the first appellant [Mutharika] was not duly elected to the office of the president,” said Kapanda, one of the seven justices who read out the ruling.

In power since 2014, Peter Mutharika, 79, was re-elected in May 2019 for a second term in the first round of voting. It was validated by the local electoral commission, LEC, which announced that he garnered 38.5% of the votes, against 35.4% for the opposition leader, Lazarus Chakwera.

Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera is a Malawian politician who is the current President of the Malawi Congress Party, in office since 2013. He is the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly following highly controversial elections held in Malawi on 21 May 2019, which he and other opposition figures are disputing in court and they want the elections to be rerun.

However, in February 2020, the opposition challenged the results in court, and the Constitutional Court, after analyzing the evidence presented before it. The courts overturned the President’s victory, citing flagrant fraud, and ordered for a new election, scheduled for July 2.

Nominations Filed

The two main candidates in the elections, Chakwera and Mutharika, have already officially filed their candidacies for the repeat elections to the LEC. Notably, each of the two main contenders has chosen a new running mate, with the opposition chief, Chakwera, having settled for the country’s former Vice President.

Saulos Chilima served during Mutharika’s first term in office. On his part, the president has dumped his current deputy and settled on Atepele Muluzi, son of the nation’s former president, Bakili Muluzi, who ruled Malawi from 1994-2004.

As per the 2018 Census, Malawi has an estimated population of 17.5 million people, and it remains one of the poorest countries on the globe. The African country is plagued by widespread corruption, and youth unemployment is one of its major challenges.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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