Malawi: Hrdc Seal MEC Offices, Next Is Mbc - March Peacefully

13 February 2020

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) held peaceful demonstrations and sealed Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) offices in Blantyre to push for resignation of its chairwoman Jane Ansah and all commissioners following a landmark judgement that annulled last May's presidential elections.

HRDC officials sealing MEC gates in Blantyre Protesters have began marching in Lilongwe. They are marching peacefully.

The court last week overturned the results that saw President Peter Mutharika narrowly re-elected, citing widespread irregularities -- especially the "massive" use of correction fluid known as Tipp-ex on tally sheets.

The judges ordered a fresh presidential election to be held within 150 days from February 3 2020 and an investigation into the operations of the electoral commission.

The Constitutional Court also found that less than a third of the results from the more than 5,000 polling stations had been certified by the auditors by the time Ansah declared Mutharika winner of the presidential race.

HRDC which has been holding protests since the Tippexed elections demanding Ansah's resignation organised the protests in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

Ansah has defiantly said he will quit if the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal upholds the February 3 2020 Constitutional Court judgement that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election for massive irregularities.

In Blantyre, led by HRDC southern region leader Masauko Thawe, the protestors sealed MEC offices after marching from Kamuzu Stadium peacefully.

Speaking to the protestors, Thawe warned that they will move next to 'shutdown' Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) for its hate-filled messages, gutter journalism and propaganda.

"Next it will be MBC," he warned.

In Lilongwe, led by HRDC national chairperson Timothy Mtambo, the protestors matched peacefully under heavy police presence.

Mtambo said "the hour has come" to get lid of those bedevilling the country's democracy.

"This change movement is like a killer virus; it will spread and will not be unstoppable. Viva Malawi!" Mtambo told the crowds who brave cold weather with rain drizzles.

Appearing before a special parliamentary committee on Wednesday, Ansah said she saw nothing wrong in her commission accepting sheets that were altered with a correction fluid known as Tippex.

She claimed the results on the tally sheets were not altered but corrected.

"There is no evidence to show that Tippex was used to favour one candidate," she said.

"What I can say is that the High Court ruling is not a final ruling. There are some issues the commission does not agree with [in the ruling]. That means a second eye, the Appeal Court.

"The issue is that if the commission does not appeal, it means the commission is agreeing that it was wrong to declare a winner based on first-past-the-post. The commission worked within the law that was there," said Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.

Another MEC member Mary Nkosi, who appeared before the committee on Monday, admitted that the commission mishandled the contentious elections.

Nkosi claimed Ansah went behind the commissioners' back and authorised altered result sheets.

"I did not see the justification to this. But there was an apparent rush to have the results put together and announced," she said. "It was a big let-down".

Veteran diplomat Vernon Mwaanga of neighboring Zambia has since hailed the Malawi , saying it raised the bar for African countries where elections are plagued by irregularities.

"The Malawi judicial system has raised the bar of constitutionality and integrity on the African continent, which I hope will be emulated by other countries, including Zambia," Mwaanga said.

"It has also shown how important it is for petitioners, who feel aggrieved by outcomes of presidential elections to be heard from beginning to end."

In the case, two of the presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections--UTM Party's Saulos Chilima (the first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party candidate Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner)--asked the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system. Mutharika was the first respondent with MEC as the second respondent.

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