Malawi Braces for Another Election Challenge Case

(file photo)

Blantyre — Malawi's Constitutional Court has agreed to hear a challenge to last year's presidential election rerun from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. President Lazarus Chakwera defeated the DPP's Peter Mutharika in the rerun after the court nullified the 2019 election, which Mutharika had won. The DPP argues the rerun should also be nullified after the High Court quashed the appointment of four DPP commissioners to the Malawi Electoral Commission.

This past June, the High Court quashed the appointment of four DPP commissioners Jean Mathanga, Linda Kunje, Steven Duwa and Arthur Nanthuru, saying their appointment was invalid and unconstitutional.

The court acted after the governing Malawi Congress Party had challenged the appointment of the commissioners.

In his ruling, Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda further said the quashing of the appointments did not affect the validity of the June 2020 re-run presidential election.

But the opposition DPP said Nyirenda erred in his ruling because he touched on issues beyond his mandate.

The party wants the court to also invalidate the rerun election because it was managed by commissioners who it says were wrongly appointed.

They argue that the Malawi Constitution does not recognize an election that was presided over by undeserving commissioners.

Charles Mhango is a lawyer for the opposition DPP.

"My clients believe strongly that the elections that took place on 23rd June, electing President Chakwera, is also null and void because the principal of the law is very clear; out of nothing, come nothing," he said.

Critics fear the case will result in another long and protracted legal battle which will cost the government a lot of money.

They believe the case could have been avoided had the government listened to the advice of the former attorney general, Chikosa Silungwe, that the government should recognize the commissioners.

Osman Kennedy, a law lecturer at Blantyre International University, told VOA that serious implications will happen only if the court rules in favor of the DPP.

"Because what will happen is that we will revert back to 2020 when Mutharika was the president. Because the court may say 'no, if you [President Chakwera] were elected by the commission that was illegal, then you were not elected, then you were no longer the president and therefore we are reverting the status quo back to Mutharika and Chilima respectively.'"

Social commentator Humphrey Mvula said the case demonstrates failure by political leaders to accept electoral defeat.

"Our challenge as most African countries including Malawi is that we rarely accept that we have lost the elections. We always want to fight and always want the court to tell us that we have lost the elections. Even at that time, we have been able to trash the decision of the court," he said.

Former president Mutharika has said he does not recognize the results of the rerun election he lost to Chakwera.

In the meantime, the Constitutional Court has set Monday next week to decide whether to proceed with the case and if so, how.

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