Malawi President Joyce Banda has ordered the nullification of presidential and parliamentary election results, citing what she says are irregularities. The president says the action is in accordance with constitutional power given to her, but legal experts say the law that President Banda has used is irrelevant.
Banda said that she has nullified the elections because of irregularities that have marred results of the poll. She cited a number of complaints that the Malawi Electoral Commission has received.
"I, Dr. Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi, in exercise of the powers conferred in section 88 (2) of the constitution," said Banda. "I hereby call for the nullification of all ongoing processes in relation to the 2014 tripartite elections, including announcement and counting of the results to cease forthwith."
Speaking at a press conference at her State House in the capital, Lilongwe, on Saturday, President Banda called for fresh elections in 90 days during which she said she will not run.
However, legal experts have faulted the president's order as saying the section she has cited does not give her the power to nullify an election.
Edge Kanyongolo is a constitutional lawyer at the University of Malawi.
"My reaction is one of my puzzlement if you will allow me, [to say that] because I am reading this section here and is says 'the president shall provide executive leadership in the interest of national unity in accordance with this constitution and the laws of the republic'," said Kanyongolo. "I am really struggling to find out how one can really interpret that to say 'it gives the president specific powers to call off an election and call for a fresh election in 90 days"
Law Society of Malawi President Mandala Mambulasa also told journalists that there is nowhere in the laws of Malawi where the president is given powers to nullify elections.
Voters went to the polls on Tuesday to choose a president, members of parliament and local councils. Long delays and ballot problems prompted authorities to extend voting in some areas into Wednesday and Thursday.
Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Maxon Mbendera declined to comment on the presidential order to reporters. He has however, directed the commission's staff at the national tally center to continue working.