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Malawi’s Supreme Court affirms nullification of presidential election

The Supreme Court in Malawi has affirmed the decision of the country’s Constitutional Court to nullify the country’s presidential elections — paving the way for fresh presidential elections which are due to be held later this year.

Embattled President Peter Mutharika, whose re-election in May 2019 was successfully overturned in court by the opposition and the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), had appealed the historic decision of the Constitutional Court delivered in February.

Mutharika narrowly won the disputed elections and now faces an uphill battle to win the forthcoming elections after major opposition parties formed an electoral alliance.

Echoing the previous decision of the Constitutional Court, the panel of seven Supreme Court judges, the highest court in the country, unanimously agreed that the management of the cancelled elections failed to meet constitutional tests due to a litany of irregularities.

The court also affirmed a radical new interpretation of the laws governing elections to mean presidential candidates should only be declared winners after attaining over 50+1% of the votes.

At the court, Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima, who lost presidential candidates in the discredited polls and petitioned the court to nullify the elections, and subsequently agreed to partner during the forthcoming elections, erupted with joy inside the small courtroom.

Ignoring the threat of the coronavirus, the two drove through the capital Lilongwe in an open-air vehicle, celebrating the court victory as scores of supporters jubilantly cheered and celebrated.

“I am very happy personally and very happy for the people of this country who have been waiting for justice,” Chakwera told the Mail & Guardian.

Chakwera also reiterated calls for members of the MEC, including its chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, to resign immediately and make way for a new commission to administer the new elections.

The Constitutional Court delivered its February ruling amid tensions in Malawi after the disputed election sparked seven months of protests and the worst political crisis since the country’s return to democracy in 1994. Despite political turmoil and alleged attempts to bribe its judges, the Constitutional Court made history by becoming the second court in sub-Saharan Africa, after Kenya, to overturn presidential elections.

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Golden Matonga
Golden Matonga is an award-winning journalist, columnist and blogger based in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe.

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