The Constitutional Court judgement nullifying the May 21 2019 presidential election results for widespread irregularities and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) incompetence has inspired 106 defeated parliamentary hopefuls to seek the same remedy.
In an interview yesterday, the group’s spokesperson Jessie Kabwila, who contested in the May 21 parliamentary race on a UTM Party ticket in Salima North West Constituency, confirmed the development.
She said the irregularities as confirmed by the five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court in the presidential election nullification petition were not exclusive to the presidential race as the process run concurrently.
Kabwila said: “Just like you saw, the petitioners went to court because they wanted justice to reign. We also want justice to reign and the whole world to pronounce itself that what about the MEC that run the parliamentary election and local government elections?”
Her sentiments were corroborated by Alex Major, a former member of Parliament (MP) who is chairperson of the grouping. He said the number of aggrieved parliamentary candidates was increasing everyday.
But lawyer Justin Dzonzi yesterday described the move by the defeated aspirants and former MPs as “insane” and a vain attempt.
He said if the proponents of the move “had bothered to read the law, they could have realised that their claim is statutory barred”.
“They have failed to make the claim within the statutory period when they must lodge the claim. The law says they must lodge their complaint within seven days,” said Dzonzi.
Private practice lawyer Wapona Kita yesterday confirmed receiving instructions from the former MPs and some of the defeated candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
He said: “They are representing all parties in Parliament. They have given us instructions. We are doing research on whether that is possible.”
The five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Redson Kapindu, Ivy Kamanga, Mike Tembo and Dingiswayo Madise nullified the presidential election in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections and directed that a fresh election be held within 150 days from February 3 2020.
The court said Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) 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.
Reading the judgement, Potani said: “We are satisfied that the petitioners’ complaint alleging undue return has been made out both qualitatively and quantitatively.
“Consequently, we hold that the first respondent [Mutharika] was not duly elected as President of Malawi. As a result, we hereby order nullification of the elections.
“We further order that a fresh election be held in accordance with the law and pursuant to directions we will make soon based on Section 100(4) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act.”
The decision, a first in the country’s 26 years of democracy, makes Malawi only the second country to nullify presidential results after Kenya in September 2017 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 candidate Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner)—asked the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was the first respondent with MEC as the second respondent.
All the five judges voted for the nullification of the vote and also recommended that Parliament should review the country’s election management laws, particularly the 50-plus-one provision in choosing the President, to clarify on laws governing the declaration of a winner through a majority vote.
In the aftermath of the elections, at least 30 cases were filed by parliamentary aspirants challenging the results. Some of the cases were thrown out while others are still in progress.
In one successful parliamentary election petition, on December 20 2019 High Court Judge Sylvester Kalembera ordered MEC to conduct a re-run in Mangochi West Constituency on the basis of what he described as “irregularities and inconsistencies in the results”, but fell short of declaring the petitioner, Simeon Harrison, an independent candidate, the winner. MEC had declared DPP candidate Geoffrey Chiwondo, the winner.