Malawi president appeals to keep job after court cancels his election
Malawian President Peter Mutharika on Friday filed an appeal against a landmark court decision that overturned his 2019 election victory, accusing it of bias against him, documents showed.
Malawi made history on Monday when the top court ruled in favour of an opposition bid to cancel last May’s presidential election results over allegations of rigging.
In his appeal papers, Mutharika said the judges had “erred in law” in concluding that his re-election was “undue” and he asked the Supreme Court to reverse the judgment which also ordered new elections.
After six months of marathon hearings broadcast on public radio, the judges had declared Mutharika was “not duly elected” over what it called widespread irregularities, especially “massive” use of correction fluid on results sheets.
It was only the second time that a presidential election has been cancelled by a court in sub-saharan Africa, after Kenya in 2017.
But Mutharika, 79, said the judges’ findings were “grossly biased” against him and a “miscarriage of justice”.
Lazarus Chakwera, the leader of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), who came a close second to Mutharika, complained that he was robbed of victory.
Mutharika was declared the winner of the May 21 election with 38.5 percent of the vote, with Chakwera losing by just 159,000 votes.
It is the first time a presidential election has been challenged on legal grounds in Malawi since independence from Britain in 1964.
The normally stable country was hit by protests throughout last year over the election result, and on Friday the activists threatened the electoral commission with “the mother of all demonstrations” if they don’t step down in the next week.
In separate court papers on Friday, the Malawi Electoral Commission chairwoman Jane Ansah sought an order “suspending the enforcement” of the Constitutional Court ruling, pending the hearing and determination of an appeal.
The court ordered a fresh election within 150 days — as well as an investigation into the conduct of the electoral commission.
But Ansah accused the Constitutional Court of acting in “excess of its jurisdiction”.
She said organising an election would require more time — at least 261 days — suggesting October 28 for the new polling date.
In its historic ruling, the court also ordered a number of legislative changes including that a candidate should be chosen by more than 50 percent of the ballots cast.
Under the current first-past-the-post electoral system for choosing a president.
Mutharika rubbished that court’s order to parliament to change the laws saying that matter was never raised by the opposition in their petition, and that the order went against the “doctrine of separation of powers”.
Ansah said she believes that “by ordering the legislature to convene and pass (new) legislation, the court acted in excess of its jurisdiction and had infringed on the independence and immunity of parliament.”
‘Mother of all demonstrations’
The court also castigated the electoral commission, ordering an investigation into the “competence and conduct” of its seven members and staff.
Ansah said the court acted in “excess of its powers” by ordering such a probe and that “having condemned them already, any such enquiry would be sham”.
Meanwhile the activists who led the long-running protests following the contested vote last year have given Ansah and her team of commissioners an ultimatum — resign by Friday of next week or face a fresh round of demonstrations.
“They (commissioners) are going to see the biggest or the mother of all demonstrations in Malawi,” Gift Trapence, vice chairman of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) told a news conference in the capital Lilongwe on Friday.
He warned that protesters would “shut down” the electoral commission offices, adding “this time we are actually prepared to even do vigils in their (commissioners) homes.”