President Peter Mutharika insists he was robbed genuine victory in the annulled May 21 2019 presidential election and has courted the electorate to vote for him “to restore the will of the people” on July 2.
In his address after presenting nomination papers to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) in Blantyre to confirm his candidacy for the fresh presidential election as ordered by a five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court, the President said the forthcoming vote is not the will of the people.
He said: “On May 21 2019, Malawians voted in a free, fair, peaceful, transparent and credible election which all international observers certified as such.
“The result in that election reflected the will of the people. You should register and vote on July 2 to restore the will of the people.
“You must vote for a leadership that will develop this country and reject leadership that wants to destroy this country. It is a choice between light and darkness.”
This is not the first time Mutharika has faulted the process leading to the fresh election after nullification of his victory. Three days after the February 3 landmark judgement, he said there was need to correct the fundamental errors in the judgement to protect laws, principles of justice and democracy.
The President—a lawyer with expertise in international economic law, international law and comparative constitutional law—said alongside his legal team he had “serious reservations with the judgement”.
He said: “We consider the judgement as a serious subversion of justice, an attack on our democratic systems and an attempt to undermine the will of the people.
“As it stands, the judgement if not cured, represents a flawed precedence for all the elections in all future elections in the country. In fact, this judgement inaugurates the death of Malawi’s democracy. As such, it cannot stand unchallenged.”
But in its 500-paged judgement, the five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Redson Kapindu, Ivy Kamanga, Mike Tembo and Dingiswayo Madise unanimously faulted MEC for failing to carry out its constitutional duties, negligence and abdication of the same.
The court said the electoral body failed in all constitutional tests it set out on the elections and that the irregularities were so glaring that the credibility of the election was in question; hence, an order for a fresh election.
Ironically, Mutharika’s sentiments yesterday came on the eve of a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judgement of his and MEC’s appeal on the matter. If the appeal overturns the Constitutional Court judgement, the fresh election will not proceed while the opposite is true.
The nullification of the election, a first in the country’s 26 years of democracy, made Malawi only the second country to nullify presidential results after Kenya in September 2012 where opposition candidate Raila Odinga successfully challenged the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In the Malawi case, two of the presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections—UTM Party’s Saulos Chilima (the first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner)—asked the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
In his address, Mutharika claimed that the post-election violence during demonstrations have cost the economy K62 billion. However, the amount could not be independently verified by press time.
While Mutharika insists that he was robbed victory, Chakwera also makes the same assertion.
Chakwera, in his address after presenting his nomination papers to MEC on Wednesday, said the fresh election was decreed by God to change Malawi’s destiny for the better.
He said: “For 26 years, Malawi’s democracy has been hijacked by cheats whose hold on power is built on fraudulent elections, violent campaigns, tribal voting and minority rule. But God has given us this fresh election to restore every voter’s power to bring change and every voter’s right to enjoy its fruits.”
On his choice of United Democratic Front (UDF) president Atupele Muluzi as his running mate, Mutharika said he settled for Atupele because “he is a person I can work with to unite and develop this country. He understands that leadership comes with responsibility”.
While Mutharika praised Atupele, his surprise running mate choice in the annulled election, Minister of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events Everton Chimulirenji was seen attentively gazing at the President. During a similar occasion in February 2019, the President described Chimulirenji as a good choice because “he has integrity, a team player who could help him run government for the next five years”. However, the Constitutional Court cut short his tenure.
Inside the hall, there were generally muted reactions from DPP national governing council members. However, the UDF camp was seen over the moon. It was the same mood outside the indoor venue as UDF followers and leaders were seen wearing more brighter faces than their alliance partners.