It can’t get any worse than this! President Peter Mutharika, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) torch-bearer in the fresh presidential election set for July 2, “is undoubtedly facing the polls bruised,” political commentators on Friday said.
After the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court in Lilongwe annulled the May 2019 presidential election on February 3. The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA) unanimously upheld the lower court’s ruling, declaring that Mutharika, was indeed not duly elected.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is coming a day after Mutharika declared that he genuinely won the disputed poll and dubbed the fresh presidential election as “not the will of the people” when he presented his presidential nomination papers to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) in Blantyre.
The ruling is a slap in the face of the President who appealed the case, alongside the electoral body, as a last resort.
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, an MSCA judge, was squarely lambasted by the seven-judge panel, who stated that the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) rightly established the electoral body’s incompetence.
The court said MEC’s incompetence posed a danger in the manner it managed the elections and infringed on the rights of voters as it sided with one of the presidential candidates; hence, disregarding its role of a duty-bearer.
Ernest Thindwa, who teaches political science at Chancellor College, said on Friday in an interview the best thing, though late, which MEC chair and her commissioners can do, is to resign and not to wait for the President to show them the exit door.
Much as the outcomes from the courts have been devastating to Mutharika, he said now is time for him to put his house in order, accept the reality on the ground, re-energise, and move on to face the fresh presidential poll with his new running mate, Atupele Muluzi, of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
Thindwa points out that the President, as a constitutional court lawyer, should understand the outcome of the appeal case.
“President Mutharika has been declaring that he won despite the Constitutional Court judgement. The Supreme Court has upheld that judgement. He must accept this reality, he needs to move forward,” Thindwa said.
The political scientist said the Supreme Court judgement is significant and would help to promote the rule of law and constitutionalism.
“The good part of this is that we have witnessed, through these court processes, that our democracy is maturing. We’ve people that petitioned the court and on the other hand, people that appealed after they were not satisfied. Elsewhere, politicians resort to violence, but it was not the case here.
“We also have the Judiciary that is independent. Despite bribery reports and intimidations this arm of government faced, it has come out with this judgement anyone can hardly fault,” Thindwa said.
He further said it is time people in power start appointing individuals that are loyal to the nation, arguing this was the problem with MEC “in that the appointing authority chose people with personal loyalty to them.”
Justin Dzonzi, a legal expert, said the rule of law has prevailed, adding on Friday’s judgement is a demonstration of how independent the country’s Judiciary is.
The court observed that the conduct of MEC left a lot to be desired, stating that despite the injury it caused to democracy, the suffering caused to the nation should have been avoided if it acted prudently.
The Supreme Court judgement, as it happened when the Constitutional Court delivered its landmark judgement on February 3, makes Everton Chimulirenji, the then vice-president before the annulment of the May 2019 presidential election, the biggest loser.
In the new arrangement, the DPP candidate in the fresh n
Muluzi, a UDF presidential candidate in the previous polls, with the running mate role.presidential poll has gifted
Muluzi, in alliance with the governing DPP, is expected to up his game having finished fourth in the last presidential race with 235 164 votes.
Mutharika, in the annulled presidential poll, was declared winner with 1.9 million votes while Chakwera amassed 1.7 million and UTM president Saulos Chilima got one million votes.
Chilima, who is also current Vice-President, has entered into an alliance with opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), where he is a running mate to the MCP leader Chakwera.
Who will stand or vote in fresh polls
University of Cape Town professor of Law Danwood Chirwa said the restriction for only those who were registered to vote in 2019 will vote in the fresh elections was understandable because this is a correction of the 2019 election.
“The court has not restricted how presidential candidates may participate. So they are allowed by implication to participate as presidential or running mate candidates. Both positions are presidential. This interpretation is consistent with the spirit of the meaning of majority the court has adopted,” he said.
Chirwa also commented on the Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale whom the Supreme Court reprimanded in its ruling.
“Elsewhere given the scathing remarks the court made on the AG’s conduct, he would have submitted a resignation letter this evening. We know he won’t. This is Malawi. But this is the first time that an AG has been reprimanded in this unequivocal manner. His conduct has been really deplorable and this is not a surprise to many people.”
On the status of MEC commissioners, he said the court clearly and expressly said they are incompetent.
“The President has no choice but to dismiss them. The chair had promised to resign if she lost the appeal. She has just lost. She’s been humiliated—utterly,” said Chirwa.