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Court merges election cases

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By Macdonald Thom & Faith Kadzanja:

The High Court in Lilongwe has ordered that two petitions against the outcome of last month’s elections filed by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima be heard as one case.

In an order issued Tuesday, High Court Judge, Charles Mkandawire, said having scrutinised the two petitions, he observed that the two matters are similar, relate to the common question of law, arise from the same transaction and there was no sufficient reason for the two cases to continue separately.

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“I, therefore, order pursuant to Order 9 of the Courts (High Court), Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 that these cases be consolidated,” the order reads.

The order, dated June 4 2019, adds: “I am also satisfied and hereby determine that these two matters are constitutional in nature, requiring attention of the Chief Justice for certification in accordance with Section 9(3) of the Courts Act.”

MCP lawyer Titus Mvalo said the court has powers to consolidate similar claims filed by different parties.

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“That’s a normal order. Normally, when you have two claims filed at the same time, seeking the same remedy by different parties, it is within the court’s powers to consolidate those claims. We have no problems with that order,” Mvalo said.

In a case filed at the Lilongwe Registry of the High Court of Malawi by lawyers representing UTM director of legal services, Yasin Maoni, the party’s officials also said it was within the court’s powers to make such an order, saying the party did not have problems with that.

MCP petitioned the High Court to nullify the May 21 2019 presidential election results, citing a number of reasons including irregularities which marred the electoral process.

UTM also wants the court to nullify the results on similar grounds.

Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal, Agnes Patemba, has said each party would have its lawyers but one judge will hear the case.

Patemba has said the case has gone to Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda for certification as a constitutional matter.

Last week, Malawi Electoral Commission declared President Peter Mutharika the winner of the elections.

The commission said Mutharika got 1,940,709 votes while Chakwera realised 1,781,740 and 1,018,369 votes went to Chilima.

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