Malawi: COVID-19 - Malawi Polls Hang in the Balance

Lilongwe — THE historic general elections set for Malawi in July are now uncertain following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Southern African country.

Malawi's Electoral Commission (MEC) had slated fresh polls for July 2 after the Constitutional Court in February annulled the results of the election last year citing vote rigging.

The date was set at a time when the Southern African nation appeared exempt from the pandemic that is wreaking havoc across the globe.

Malawi recorded its first outbreaks of the dreaded virus on Friday last week.

Three cases were initially confirmed.

The country immediately went into lockdown when cases shot up to eight, including a single death at the time of publication.

Jappie Mhango, the Chairperson for the Special Cabinet Committee on COVID-19, confirmed the suspension of the election registration exercise.

The suspension was announced alongside restrictions of gatherings including those in churches and markets.

"We all have to pull in one direction in the fight against the coronavirus. This is war. It has to be treated as such," Mhango said.

However, legal experts said constitutionally, the cabinet was not empowered to suspend the electoral exercise.

This is the sole responsibility of the MEC, the election body.

Jane Ansah, chairperson of the MEC, also hinted at a postponement.

Experts said with the polls hanging in the balance, the courts ought to step in again.

Last year, incumbent, Peter Mutharika had secured 1,94 million votes, ahead of Lazarus Chakwera (1,78 million) and Saulos Chilima (1,018 million) in the widely disputed polls.

The Constitutional Court scrapped the outcome over irregularities.

It was the second time- after Kenya in 2017- that courts ordered fresh polls after irregularities.

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