Two major contenders of President Peter Mutharika in the May 21 Tripartite Elections have challenged the credibility of the polls with MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera calling for a recount of the votes in some districts while UTM leader Saulos Chilima has called for nullification of the votes.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on Saturday obtained an injunction at the High Court (Lilongwe Registry), ordering the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) not to announce results of presidential elections until a recount of votes in some selected districts is done.
The order follows an application through lawyer Titus Mvalo, who sought permission from the court to be granted permission to apply for a judicial review and giving directions.
“That until a further order of the court, the announcement of presidential election results is stayed until the results from Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mangochi, Blantyre, Zomba, Mulanje, Chitipa, Rumphi, Karonga and Nkhata Bay are verified through a transparent recounting of the ballot papers in the presence of representatives of political parties which contested in the elections,” reads the order granted by Justice Charles Mkandawire.
In a telephone interview on Saturday, Mvalo confirmed to have made an application to the court.
The Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPE Act) compels the Electoral Commission to announce election results within eight days after closing of polling stations.
In 2014, in his ruling Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda argued that nothing should stop the electoral body from announcing results.
But, in an interview on Saturday, Lilongwe-based legal expert Justice Dzonzi argued against the suggestion that the PPE Act makes MEC duty-bound to announce results – even when there are irregularities.
He said if that’s the spirit of the law—to force MEC announce results in the face of outstanding issues—then it defeats the purpose of democracy and the need to have credible and fair elections.
“My view has always been that the law [PPE Act] was badly drafted in the sense that when you are drafting the law which deals with processes, the law itself proceeds on certain assumptions. So, good drafting would provide for an exception, maybe a provision which says where there is evidence of irregularities, allow the electoral body to deal with the issues before announcing results.
“But now where there is that gap, it is the role of the courts to fill the gap in the interim, giving an interpretation to the law, which is logical. So, if the information is showing that there is massive rigging, it will be naïve to force MEC to announce the results. So, if we force MEC to announce the results, it means the law is an enemy because it suppresses the power of the ballot,” argued Dzonzi.
Meanwhile, Chilima has called for nullification of the May 21 presidential election.
Addressing journalists at the UTM headquarters in Lilongwe on Saturday, Chilima said the elections have been marred by serious irregularities; hence a new vote should be called.
Chilima, who during campaign challenged his rivals, particularly the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), that they will not succeed in any rigging attempts, did not take any questions from journalists after delivering a short statement.
Flanked by the party’s publicity secretary Joseph Chidanti-Malunga and other party officials, Chilima said the law permits MEC to cancel results in such a scenario.
Chilima said the commission has three options on the way forward of the elections—nullification of the aggregated vote; stalemate of the aggregated vote; and announcement of a winner based on the verified aggregated vote.
“In view of the chaos that has ensued under the watch of the Electoral Commission, I am calling upon the Electoral Commission for the nullification of the aggregated vote under the Tripartite Elections of May 21 2019. The country must re-group and prepare for credible elections to the satisfaction of the people of Malawi. We should not allow fraudsters to continue holding this country at ransom,” he said.
But DPP on Saturday, in a statement, asked MEC to release results forthwith, arguing that the commission should not be bullied by MCP propaganda.
The 2019 elections appear headed for an impasse after the commission said it was reviewing several results due to the irregularities.
Meanwhile, MCP supporters demonstrated in the streets of Lilongwe to show solidarity to Chakwera who stood neck-on-neck to Mutharika, according to MEC’s last update on Thursday afternoon.
Supporters blocked traffic in some areas while chanting pro-MCP slogans. Some were seen removing DPP party flags mounted in different places. There were also reports of ugly scenes in Mponela, Dowa, which we could not independently confirm.