The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) application for the court to stop electoral processes until the appeal case is heard.
The court which was presided over by seven judges dismissed the application in which MEC, through its lawyer Tamando Chokotho, argued that the time given for it to run the elections is not sufficient.
According to senior counsel Chikosa Silungwe, who is representing the first petitioner Saulos Chilima in the elections case hearing, the judges did not find valid grounds for the stay order to stop electoral processes.
The development means that MEC is supposed to begin electoral processes for fresh presidential elections which the Legal Committee of Parliament slated for May 19 this year.
He said: “The Supreme Court of Appeal has said that the only new thing that has been introduced by the legislative process is the legal framework to manage the runoff. However, judges interpreted the laws as intact and they argued that the only thing that will disturb the High Court if the appeal succeeds is the bit of legislation that introduced runoff…”
The court also disagreed with MEC’s request that fresh elections should be held in October saying that from the time the Constitutional Court passed the judgment, some statutory processes that ought to have been in place have not yet been put in place.
According to Chokotho, the ruling means that fresh elections will proceed as ordered by the High Court but there will be some shortcuts to ensure processes are done.
He said: “This means that the electoral process needs to be expedited. Let’s hope that all will end well. As the Supreme Court has said they will have to rework their calendar to fit in the period that has been ordered by the court. My job is to tell my client what the court has said.”
Both Chakwera and Chilima Chilima, who have agreed to form an electoral alliance for the upcoming fresh presidential election, were in the chamber yesterday.
In an interview, Chilima said MEC has no choice now but to begin preparing for the elections and President Mutharika must assent to the Electoral Reform Bills.
On his part, Chakwera said: “The expectation is that we should be a country that follows the rule of law and this is an example of that. Everybody needs to be able to comply with what the court says. Now they have nowhere to go as far as this issue is concerned. We must proceed with preparations for elections.
“The President has to comply with what the court says. He is a Malawian citizen just like the rest of us. Nobody is above the law.”
Chokotho argued in court on Wednesday that the next elections should be held on October 28 2020 to enable MEC to conduct all electoral activities properly.
One of the lawyers for Chakwera, Titus Mvalo, argued that MEC does not have a valid basis for their proposal saying there is capacity to hold elections after a budget was passed during the Mid Year Budget Review session last month.
Meanwhile, Chikosa says his team is more than ready to argue their case before the Supreme Court when full hearing of the appeal commences on April 15 this year.
He said; “We don’t care where lawyers for the Electoral Commission come from. It doesn’t matter whether the lawyers come from Mars or Earth.”
MEC has hired South African lawyers to help in the presidential elections appeal case. MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said in an earlier interview she is not aware of how much the foreign legal team will cost the taxpayer to defend the 2019 election results that the High Court nullified. But a document bearing the name of the South African law firm—Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys—shows that the contract sum is $788 000 (about K600 million), half of which has to be paid in advance on or by March 13 2020.