Malawi: Court Rejects Bid to Extend Ballot Inspection - Malawi Electoral Commission Application 'Ill-Conceived'

President Peter Mutharika, Vice President Saulos Chilima and Lazarous Chakwera of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party.

The High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court has rejected an application by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to extend the inspection exercise of presidential ballot in the case where two petitioners are seeking nullification of the presidential results in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

Court ordered specific disclosures by the electoral body, including provision of documents on audited election results to the court

In the case, the country's immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima, who represented UTM Party in the presidential race, is the first petitioner while Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera is the second petitioner with President Peter Mutharika and MEC as first and second respondents, respectively.

The Justice Jane Ansah led electoral commission applied to court, through an ex-parte- to extend the inspection period which ended on Sunday, arguing that it was not enough to asses all the said documents.

A panel of five judges of the High Court of Malawi comprising Healey Potani, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo could not grant the second respond their wish, observing MEC's application was "ill-conceived."

The ruling said: "The court finds the application ill-conceived on the ground that the disclosures as ordered by the court were sought by the second petitioner (MCP) and not the second respondent (MEC).

"In any event, the materials, the subject of the order of disclosure, are documents emanating from or authored by the second respondent (MEC) itself. Therefore, the application is dismissed."

Commenting on the court's decision, governance expert and analyst Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that MEC seems to have wasted it's time with a focus on discontinuing the case instead of preparing a good counter evidence to UTM and MCP submissions.

"MEC is simply applying delaying tactics in order to buy more time to prepare after the High Court rejected their plea to discontinue the case," he observed.

"However, it is in the best interest of all parties involved and of course the general public that the case is concluded in good time. Any further delay is unwarranted. It is on this basis that the Court decision must be commended," said Munthali.

But private practice lawyer Tamanda Chokhoto, representing MEC in the case, their extension bid could have "benefitted everyone involved in the case."

Prior to commencement of hearing on July 29, the parties to the case are expected to exchange documents, including sworn affidavits and evidence.

Currently, there is tension in the country as civil society organisations, through Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), have been organising nationwide protests to force Ansah to resign for allegedly presiding over a fraudulent elections.

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