Malawi: MCP, UTM Welcome Malawi Supreme Court Order for Election Case Continuity

16 August 2019

UTM Party and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have welcomed the Supreme Court decision to reject the appeal by President Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to dismiss an election petition case which the two party leaders brought before the High Court disputing May 21 presidential election.

Chilima and Chakwera welcome the Supreme Court order as victory for democratic integrity

A panel of seven Supreme Court judges, led by Malawi's Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, on Thursday rejected the appeal demanding the dismissal of a case about the presidential election results, effectively allowing the election case - which started on July 28 - to continue to be heard in the Constitutional Court.

Both Saulos Chilima the UTM Party leader and Lazarus Chakwera the president of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), who are challenging results of the presidential election, claiming that they were rigged in favour of President Mutharika who was declared winner with 38 percent, welcome Supreme Court ruling.

Chilima was jubilant as he welcomed what he called a "pro-democracy ruling" by the court.

On his part Chakwera said he welcomes do the ruling with delight.

MCP Secretary General Elsenhower Mkaka told Nyasa Times that the Supreme Court ruling demonstrates the independence of the judiciary.

"We have always respected the independence of the judiciary. They remain the only hope for this nation. On this one the judiciary is showing the world they are independent of any influence," said Mkaka.

He added: " We are happy with the outcome. We know our friends will go to any lengths to derail the court case but we are certain that no matter how slow the wheels of justice would grind, they will surely grind."

The lawyers representing Mutharika argued at the High Court that the opposition petition was filed late. They further asserted that it had no sworn statement, hence it should be dismissed.

But Chief Justice Nyirenda said on the issue: "Our answer is yes, these matters are appealable but we notice a couple of issues. There is no notice of appeal files by the first appellant and there is a notice of appeal by the second appellant. However, the matters are raised by the first appellant and not the second appellant in the court below.

"Having made these observations, having [listend to] the skeleton arguments and having heard counsel this morning orally and having considered the matter in entirety, we dismiss the matter with costs," said Nyirenda.

Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that it is the best interest of both the petitioners and respondents to have the case reach logical conclusion.

"At the end of the day this will partly help in answering the question as to whether the election was rigged or not," he said.

"DPP and MEC they need to know that allowing the Court to pursue the substance of the case to the logical conclusion will also help them in validating or invalidating the outcome of 2019 Presidential elections.

"If the Court does not find any (serious) evidence of rigging, this would in one way or the other strengthen Mutharika's legitimacy to govern," said Munthali.

Both Chilima and Chakwera are challenging results of the presidential election, claiming that they were rigged in favour of President Mutharika who was declared winner with 38 percent.

Results MEC announced show that Chakwera trailed Mutharika with 35 percent while Chilima finished third with 20 percent of the votes.

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