Malawi's President to Challenge Nullification of Vote

Malawi President Peter Mutharika addresses his supporters during his swearing-in ceremony in Blantyre, May, 28, 2019.

Blantyre — Malawi's President Peter Mutharika has rejected Monday's ruling by the constitutional court which annulled the results of last year's election. Though the court cited massive irregularities in last May's voting, Mutharika says the call for fresh elections cannot be allowed to stand.

However, Vice President Saulos Chilima is laying the groundwork for a new presidential campaign. Chilima, of the opposition United Transformation Movement party, came in third with 20 percent in the presidential election, second to Lazarus Chakwera of the opposition Malawi Congress Party, who took 35 percent.

Mutharika of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party won with 38 percent.

But according to the constitutional court's verdict, Mutharika was "not duly elected," largely because of massive and widespread irregularities including the use of correction fluid on result sheets.

The judges ordered a fresh poll within 150 days.

Chilima told reporters Wednesday that he is ready to work with anyone to free the country from what he called "dehumanizing grip of acute poverty."

"I remain humble in my ambition, but firm in my desire to see a new Malawi," he said. "I pledge to play any part the people of Malawi give me in this third republic."

But Mutharika is appealing the court's verdict.

His spokesman told a local radio station on Wednesday that the ruling is "a very serious miscarriage of justice and an attempt to circumvent the democratic will of people."

Lawyer Frank Mbeta represented Mutharika in the case.

"First, let me say that we have instructions from our client to appeal," Mbeta said. "Right now I am not in a position to discuss the grounds of the appeal because we are formulating them. But I think probably by tomorrow [Thursday] we will have them ready and will be filed with the court."

The appeal doesn't worry Maurice Munthali, spokesperson for the opposition Malawi Congress Party.

"The appeal case won't change anything as far as we are concerned," Munthali said. "Because we have gone through the judgment and we feel that the judges have done their work very professionally, very objectively, without any bias and any favor at all in terms of justice."

Political analyst Vincent Kondowe says it is not easy to overturn unanimous decisions by Constitutional Court judges.

"And when you look at the evidence, and when you look at the magnitude of irregularities that have been expounded by the constitutional court, I don't think an individual would have much carriage to appeal such type of a court decision. So, for me, I would encourage President Peter Mutharika not to appeal," Kondowe said.

Chilima says he will consult with his legal team for advice if Mutharika files an appeal.

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