from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE – THE unprecedented decision by the Constitutional Court in Malawi to annul the May 2019 election outcome is a victory for democracy in the Southern African country hailed as a model of peace and stability in the continent.
It also sets a benchmark on the future conduct of elections in the African continent, being the second presidential elections to be annulled by the courts, following a similar ruling by the Supreme Court in Kenya in late 2017.
On Monday, the Constitutional Court in the capital Lilongwe nullified the results of the elections, concluding they had been rigged and not free and fair.
The judgement cited rampant cheating, tampering of results and numerous other malpractices that worked in the favour of incumbent, Peter Mutharika.
Mutharika will remain president until the fresh polls but Members of Parliament (MPs) and councillors have been removed from office.
Judges have ordered fresh elections to be held within 150 days.
The Constitutional Court ruling was in favour of the opposition leaders, Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement (UTM).
Polls were the tightest contested since independence from Britain in 1964. All three candidates – Mutharika polled 1,94 million ballot, Chakwera garnered 1,78 million and Chilima accumulated 1,018 million respectively.
“A great day for Malawi and a great day for our democracy,” Chakwera reacted.
He hailed Malawians that backed the opposition’s appeal against all odds.
Crackdowns by state security personnel against agitated protesters characterised the poll outcome last May.
The impact of the Constitutional Court verdict on the controversial elections remains to be seen in a country that is largely peaceful but was plunged into chaos by the elections.
“We need a new Malawi where people’s votes are respected and protected,” Chakwera said.
Ken Ndanga, spokesperson of Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) downplayed the court verdict.
“The ruling did not say that any political party rigged the elections. It simply said that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) messed up the elections,” he said.
He nonetheless commended the judiciary.
“The judges were fair, independent and professional,” Ndanga said.
The ruling party has the right to appeal the verdict but Ndanga apparently ruled this out.
“An appeal will be misguided,” he said.
United Democratic Front Leader, Atupele Muluzi, said “I have been humbled by how the Constitutional Court has conducted their investigation into the 2019 Tripartite Elections and respect their findings.”
He appealed on Malawians to maintain peace and unity ahead of the new elections ordered by the Constitutional Court.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which endorsed last year’s poll, applauded Malawians for their faith in the judiciary.
“SADC calls on all to remain calm and preparations for the (fresh) elections to commence,” Dr Stergomana Tax, SADC Executive Secretary stated.
– CAJ News