Judgement Day: Malawians Await Ruling On Presidential Election Petition
3 February 2020 African News
Report says, Malawi’s Constitutional Court will on Monday deliver a ruling on last year’s disputed presidential election that led to deadly confrontations and widespread unrest.
The long-peaceful southern African nation has never had a presidential vote overturned, but the two opposition candidates who teamed up for a legal challenge are hoping the Constitutional Court will agree with their allegations of irregularities and order a new vote.
President Peter Mutharika was declared the narrow winner of the May election with 38% of votes, followed by Lazarus Chakwera with 35% and former vice president Saulos Chilima third with 20%. The four other candidates collectively got nearly 6%.
The five-judge panel has heard arguments that the vote was rigged by the president and electoral commission. Both have denied it.
Malawi’s electoral commission acknowledged receiving 147 reports alleging irregularities including the use of correction fluid to alter some results.
The two opposition candidates alleged that the irregularities affected over 1.4 million of the total 5.1 million votes cast.
Mutharika and the electoral commission acknowledges some irregularities but argued they were insufficient to affect the election’s outcome.
The months-long court case has been accompanied by sometimes violent street protests demanding the resignation of electoral commission chairwoman Jane Ansah. The Malawi Human Rights Commission late last year released a report accusing the police of serious human rights abuses, including rape and assault, in one confrontation.
The judges themselves have come under pressure. In January, Malawi’s anti-corruption bureau arrested businessman Thom Mpinganjira, who was accused of approaching two judges with an offer of $135,000 to sway justice in favor of the president. The chief justice issued an official complaint to the bureau.
Mpinganjira was later released, however, after a magistrate in another court issued an order quashing the arrest warrant. The High Court then overturned that ruling, questioning the lower court’s conduct and ordering Mpinganjira’s arrest.