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Mabvuto Banda and Frank Phiri
25 May 2014 07:40
Malawi Electoral Commission workers recount votes at the National Tally Centre in Blantyre on Saturday. (Amos Gumulira, AFP)
Malawi’s high court on Saturday issued an injunction stopping President Joyce Banda
from interfering in the electoral process, making her earlier
decision to annul national elections invalid and raising the
risk of post-election violence in the Southern African country.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) suspended the
country’s election announcement and ordered a re-count of votes,
commissioner Chimkwita Phiri said at the national tally centre
“There’s need for a physical check by opening the actual
ballot boxes,” he said, adding that the number of ballots
counted exceeded the number of voters registered.
Banda earlier on Saturday ordered the cancellation of
Malawi’s elections, citing fraud and “rampant irregularities” in
a decision that triggered protests and was challenged by the
national electoral authority and a political rival.
Banda, who had been standing for re-election, ordered a new
vote within 90 days but said she would no longer be a candidate
to guarantee a credible outcome.
The MEC and one of her main
rivals for the presidency who had been leading in the vote count
contested her annulment, saying she did not have the
constitutional power to cancel the elections.
The court order was granted following an application by
lawyers representing the MEC, the Malawi Law Commission and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), respectively.
Phiri warned that the law would take its course if ballots
were proven to have been tampered with.
Banda’s decision led to protests at Limbe outside the
commercial hub of Blantyre, where demonstrators smashed shops,
The political crisis broke out four days after a
problem-plagued vote, where Banda, Southern Africa’s first
elected female head of state, has seen her popularity eroded by
a corruption scandal.
“I, Dr Joyce Banda ... hereby issue this proclamation
nullifying all on-going processes in relation to the 2014 tripartite elections,” Banda said in her broadcast.
She cited “fraudulent and rampant irregularities” and
ordered that voting be repeated within 90 days.
Shortly before Banda’s announcement, the electoral
commission released preliminary results showing opposition DPP
candidate Peter Mutharika leading with 42% of the vote,
followed by Banda with 23%.
This was based on 30%
of the total votes counted.
“There is no legal basis for stopping the election.
“I appeal to the president to ask people to be calm and I
hope she abandons the path she is taking because we don’t need
to take this country on the path of violence,” Mutharika added.
Dispute over constitutional powersMEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera challenged the annulment, saying
only the electoral authority had the legal power to annul the
Banda said she would not participate as a presidential
candidate in the election re-run.
“I have done this to allow that Malawians are given an
opportunity to freely and fairly express their will in choosing
their leaders in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner,”
Tuesday’s poll had been plagued by problems from the outset,
with voting materials turning up hours late and ballot papers
being sent to the wrong end of the country, infuriating voters.
Organisers had to extend voting in some urban areas into a
second day and initial counting was held up by a lack of
lighting and generators at polling stations.
Despite this, the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) election observer mission has declared the May 20 poll as
generally “free, peaceful and credible”.
“While concerns were noted, these were not of such gravity
as to affect the integrity of the electoral process,” said
Netumbwa Nandi Ndaitwa, head of the mission and Namibia’s minister of foreign affairs.
Banda enjoyed huge goodwill when she came to power two years
ago, but her popularity waned after she was forced to impose
austerity measures, including a devaluation, to stabilise
Her administration was hit by a $15-million corruption
scandal, dubbed “Cashgate”, after large amounts of cash were
discovered in the car of a senior government official. - Reuters
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