Supreme Court in Malawi confirms poll nullification

Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM alliance partner Saulosi Chilima outside the Supreme Court on Friday

 Malawi’s Supreme Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling by a lower court that nullified the re-election of President Peter Mutharika on May 21 last year.

“The use of tippex, fake tally sheets, reserved tally sheets, improvised tally sheets, all amounted to gross irregularities,” ruled the 7-panel judges.

The court has also confirmed that in presidential elections majority means 50%+1 votes.

The court, which is the highest arbiter in Malawi, declared that it does not find any reason for departing from the ruling of the lower court below [High Court of Malawi].

The ruling means that Malawi goes to polls again on July 2 as scheduled.

The Supreme Court of Appeal described some grounds of the appeal by Mutharika as extremely confrontational and unwarranted.

The Supreme Court of Appeal made the ruling after Mutharika denounced the lower court ruling that invalidated his re-election as a “serious miscarriage of justice” and an “attack on the foundations of Malawi’s democracy.”

In its ruling on Feb 3, the lower court (High Court of Malawi) declared the election results “invalid, null and void.”

The court declared that the Malawi Electoral Commission failed to conduct the elections constitutionally.

“We hold the first respondent (Peter Mutharika) was not duly elected during the May 21, 2019 elections. We hereby order the nullification of the said elections,” declared Justice Healy Potani who chaired the five-judge panel.

According to Potani, there was a litany of irregularities – in particular, the “massive” use of correction fluid (Tippex) on tally sheets, which dogged the elections conducted in May.

“It has been our findings that irregularities and anomalies have been so widespread, systematic and grave that the integrity of the results has been seriously compromised,” Potani ruled.

The High Court ordered the electoral body to hold fresh elections within 150 days.

Fresh elections

Meanwhile, the electoral body is preparing for the holding of fresh elections on July 2 this year.

The commission has already received nominations from three presidential aspirants.

80-year-old Mutharika filed his nomination papers on Thursday afternoon alongside his new running mate 41-year-old Atupele Muluzi of the United Democratic Front.

Atupele is the son of former President Bakili Muluzi, who ruled Malawi from 1994 to 1999.

“Together we will be the bridge to the future, together we will win this election,” Mutharika said in a speech aired on state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

He added: “We won that the May 2019 election. This (fresh) election is not the will of the people; therefore, I call upon all Malawians to come out and vote in this election to express the will of the people.”

Opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera who has forged a coalition with (Vice President) Saulosi Chilima filed their nomination papers on Wednesday.

The two parties have teamed up Chakwera’s candidacy to prop up their chances of unseating Mutharika.

The third candidate is Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Democracy.

The July 2 poll will be a two-horse race between Mutharika and Chakwera.