Malawi's constitutional court cancels presidential vote result

2020-02-03 19:46
Malawi's President Peter Mutharika. (Amos Gumulira, AFP)

Malawi's President Peter Mutharika. (Amos Gumulira, AFP)

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Malawi's Constitutional Court on Monday ordered new elections after annulling the results of a vote that re-elected President Peter Mutharika in May, citing widespread irregularities.

"We hold that the first respondent (Mutharika) was not duly elected as president of Malawi on May 21, 2019," ruled Judge President Healey Potani.

"We hereby nullify the results of the presidential elections," he added, ordering fresh polls.

Malawians waited with bated breath for Monday's ruling.

The case has gripped the nation and kept Malawians glued to radio stations for hours on end listening to live broadcast of witnesses presenting evidence of alleged vote rigging during a six-month-long hearing.

On Monday, security was tightened with a heavy military presence around the court and businesses pulled down their shutters for the week, fearing violence would erupting.

Judges were driven to court in a military armoured vehicle.

An army helicopter occasionally hovered above the courthouse and the central business district as the 500-page verdict was read out.

Sporadic protests have broken out across the country since Mutharika was declared the winner by a narrow margin in the May 21 presidential elections with 38.5% of the vote.

Runner-up Lazarus Chakwera, who lost by just 159 000 votes, alleges he was robbed of victory.

His Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the opposition United Transformation Movement (UTM) have petitioned the courts to annul the poll.

"It is clear that the use of Tippex (correction fluid) was employed by (electoral commission) officers to hide votes," said judge Ivy Kamanga, reading from judgement.

"Use of Tippex was unjustifiable and an irregularity," she said, adding the way in which the electoral commission "dealt with the alterations was not in line with the law, hence it was irregular".

The court also said only a quarter of the results sheets were verified and said it "finds this to be a serious malpractice that undermined the elections".

It is the first time a presidential election has been challenged on legal grounds in Malawi since independence from Britain in 1964.

Read more on:    peter mutharika  |  malawi  |  southern africa

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