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Lazarus Chakwera to fight on

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By Rebecca Chimjeka:

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, Lazarus Chakwera, has told BBC Focus on Africa that he would continue challenging the result of last week’s presidential elections in court.

He was speaking to the BBC on Tuesday evening, in his first interview since President Peter Mutharika was announced the winner of the May 21 presidential election.

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“You must understand that when we went to court, the case is still alive. What the court said there was to just lift the stay order. But we will pursue that case with all we have in order that we may come to a conclusion that is satisfactory for all. Whether he won and I lost it is neither here nor there. What I am saying right now is for us to have a process concluded so that we can accept findings,” Chakwera said.

Asked if he though the result could be reversed to favour him, Chakwera said such decision lies with the court.

“Should the court so determine, why not? … It may be unrealistic but if we do not fight for the Malawian, they will never know what actually happened. It is pretty hard to digest,” he said.

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Chakwera faulted what he described as a broken electoral system.

“Ours is a system in which officers of the electoral commission can refuse to give party monitors copies of results-sheets as required and yet there are no consequences. An electoral system in which officers of the electoral commission can take results-sheets home, for hours and re-emerge with them, and yet there are no consequences. It is an electoral system in which officers of the electoral commission can use Tipp-ex [correction fluid] on results-sheets, from all over the country, violating their own procedures and yet there are no consequences,” he said.

Chakwera said he did not attend Mutharika’s swearing-in ceremony at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Tuesday because he was not invited.

“You would think that should be the case [attending the swearing-in ceremony]. I can’t force myself. Even at the government’s functions, I have been ill-treated. I have been harassed. I have been chased away and so it is not a surprise to me that no invitation was extended to me. I preach peace and I preach unity for all Malawians but our friends are bent on dividing this country,” he said.

But Mutharika has rejected criticism of the election result, saying international observers declared the polls as peaceful, fair and credible.

Meanwhile, MCP lawyers have told The Daily Times that they are still putting their facts together before the commencement of the case at the High Court in Lilongwe.

The court lifted an injunction which MCP had sought before the announcement of the presidential result, paving the way for Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) to declare Mutharika the winner.

“We are still working on some documents and, when we are ready, we are going to present them to the court. The judicial review case is still continuing,” Pempho Likongwe, one of the lawyers, said.

“We are going to file substantive application for judicial review,” he said.

High Court Judge Justice Charles Mkandawire, in Lilongwe on Sunday, maintained the permissions for judicial review to MCP on issues relating to presidential election which took place last week.

This is despite the same court’s decision to vacate an injunction restraining Mec from announcing results of the election.

MCP wants the court to review the decision by Mec to consider results of the presidential election from areas which, it says, were marred by tampering of tally sheets.

The party also wants the court to review the electoral body’s decision, through its presiding officers, who refused to give copies of genuine tally sheets to MCP’s accredited monitors.

Other issues which MCP wants the court to review are Mec’s decision to tabulate results of presidential elections without prior verification with the party’s accredited monitors and the electoral body’s decision to take into account results from constituencies and polling centres where the votes cast are higher than the number of registered voters in the constituency or polling centre.

MCP also wants the court to review Mec’s failure to reverse results after seeing evidence of rigging and the commission’s failure to accord rules of natural justice to the applicants and their agents.

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