- Made first respondent to Chilima, Chakwera petition
President Peter Mutharika has become the first respondent in the case where presidential hopefuls Saulos Chilima and Lazarus Chakwera are challenging results of the presidential race in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
In a written response on Tuesday, registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Agnes Patemba said it is a legal requirement in cases where election results are in dispute to make a winning candidate to be a party to the case.
She said: “The law declares that the winner be a party to the proceedings.”
Court documents show that Chilima—the country’s immediate past vice-president who vied for the presidency on a UTM Party ticket—and Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are first and second petitioners, respectively.
Mutharika is the first respondent to the petition with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second respondent, the documents show.
And in a notice of the case, Patemba advises all parties to the case to meet in the judge’s chamber at the High Court Lilongwe District Registry at 2pm on Friday.
Reads the notice in part: “Take notice that the applicants shall not later than 10am on Wednesday the 12th [today] day of June, serve on the respondents and the Attorney General referral by the original court as contained in Form 20 dated the 4th day of June 2019 and all other court processes filed with the court to date.”
Further, the notice of consolidated elections case numbers 16 and 26 of 2019 dated June 11 states that in turn, the Attorney General shall file and serve their responses by 10 am on Friday.
Last week, the High Court consolidated two cases initially separately filed by the parties against MEC.
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda has since certified the matter as a constitutional matter and assigned a five-judge panel to hear the case as a Constitutional Court.
The five-judge panel comprises Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga and Redson Kapindu.
In an earlier interview, Patemba said the consolidation order meant that the cases would now be treated as one application and be heard by one court.
The petitioners had separately filed their applications with the High Court at the Lilongwe District Registry two weeks ago challenging results announced by MEC declaring Mutharika as winner.
The petitioners cite irregularities, especially in the results management process as some of the factors justifying nullification of the presidential race.
MEC on May 27 declared Mutharika winner of the presidential race with 1 940 709 votes representing 38.57 percent followed by MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes representing 35.41 percent while Chilima finished third and ahead of four other aspirants with 1 018 369 votes representing 20.24 percent.
In the parliamentary race, Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won 62 seats in the 193-seat National Assembly while MCP and independents got 55 each. The other seats were shared as follows United Democratic Front (UDF) got 10, People’s Party (PP) won five, UTM Party has four and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) took one. Parliamentary elections were held in 192 constituencies.
While several election observer missions, both local and international, declared the electoral process free and fair, others, including the local quasi-religious group Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and the European Union Election Observer Mission expressed some reservations.
In its analysis of the polls, PAC said the results management process lacked credibility, especially in the wake of revelations of use of Tippex, a correction fluid MEC admitted was not part of its inventory.
The European Union Election Observer Mission also faulted the results management system.
During press briefings, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said there were 147 complaints lodged and that the issue of Tippex was resolved.