The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) said yesterday its electoral calendar ahead of the May 20 Tripartite Elections is stalling because its decisions are being challenged in courts of law.
MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera, who is also a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said this in Blantyre yesterday when he opened a two-day orientation workshop for judges and magistrates on electoral issues.
MEC has disqualified a number of aspirants from contesting as candidates in the May elections. Those disqualified include Umodzi Party president Professor John Chisi and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson Jessie Kabwila.
Mbendera was asked to explain what would happen in the event that the electoral body has printed the ballot papers, but the courts have allowed those disqualified to contest.
“In cases where someone has challenged our determination in court, everything stops. We will wait for the court to give its verdict and then start moving,” he said.
MEC chief elections officer Willie Kalonga said in an interview later yesterday that the process to print ballot papers takes about three weeks to be finalised. He played down fears that delays in the courts might affect the polling day.
In an interview later, Chief Justice Anastasia Msosa acknowledged that in some instances, courts delay in making decisions.
However, she pointed out that the aim is to make sure that justice is done.
Said Msosa: “We cannot rush a case if we want justice to be done. If there are procedures that need to be followed, it’s important that they are followed.”
She dismissed any suggestion of establishing special courts for the election, saying that would not be possible because of shortage of staff.
Commenting on the workshop, Mbendera said it was aimed at contributing to free, fair and credible elections.
“The importance of the Judiciary cannot be overemphasised. The Judiciary can make or break the elections. It is for that reason that the Judiciary plays a pivotal role in promoting the electoral justice,” said Mbendera.
The European Union (EU) Democratic Governance Programme funded the workshop which is being facilitated by private practice lawyer Justin Dzonzi and Chancellor College associate professor of law Edge Kanyongolo.
It focused on the electoral justice system, electoral legislation, the Constitution and the Electoral Act among others.