ConCourt to deliver polls case ruling
The Constitutional Court sitting in Lilongwe is expected to deliver its judgement on the landmark presidential election results case this morning in what
is seen as the country’s litmus test for its democracy and relative peace.
The panel of five High Court judges, led by Justice Healey Potani, is expected to deliver its determination on whether to uphold or nullify the May 21 2019 presidential election results, which Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima challenged as having been marred by irregularities.
Ahead of the ruling scheduled to start at 9 o’clock in the morning, there have been unprecedented calls for peace from political parties, donors, civil society, the clergy and law enforcement agents in an effort to manage reactions after the judgement.
Heavy security has been deployed to man judicial premises in Lilongwe where the ruling will be delivered whereas most institutions have played it safe by re-enforcing security at their premises and even closing down.
The government has not declared that today is a holiday but most institutions, especially schools have closed amid tension as to what might happen after the ruling.
The panel of High Court judges Ivy Kamanga, Potani, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo are presiding over the case, arguably the first of its kind in the country’s history.
Little wonder, there is anxiety. Several roads connecting to the court have been blocked as Malawi Defence Force soldiers and the police try to limit the number of people at the court premises.
Business people have also tightened security of their premises with FDH Bank and National Bank of Malawi, among other institutions, fitting plywood boards on doors and windows to stop criminals from breaking into their premises.
Multitudes of people were also seen buying groceries in selected shops as they expected the shops to be closed today due to security concerns.
Chilima and Chakwera, petitioners in the case, argue that the presidential election results were marred by irregularities.
Chilima, through his five-member legal team, highlighted irregularities that should force the court to set aside the election results.
Lead counsel for Chilima, the first petitioner, Chikosa Silungwe said they were looking forward to answers on whether Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) breached sections 40, 76 and 77 of the Constitution.
“It has always been a Constitution interpretation case. Our argument was based on three things—qualitative analysis of the election management in Malawi, the irregularity in the election where we talked about Tipp-Ex and the fraud argument in answering the Constitutional breaches.
“The irregularities also included use of duplicate forms other than original form 66c which affected 1,527 votes and use of fake sheets affecting 188,172 votes. The alterations with the correction fluid, according to Chilima, affected 524,340 votes.
“We are convinced that we put up a cogent case to persuade the court that the Constitution provisions were breached and our expectation is that the court will agree with us,” Silungwe said.
The second petitioner Chakwera described the election as a sham.
MCP argues that the massive irregularities in the election significantly affected the results of the vote such that the will of the people was subverted.
Among others, MCP argued that Mec erred by altering, varying and transmitting submitted results in clear disregard of the altered figures recorded on the results tally sheets.
It also faulted Mec for failing to detect alterations and variations in terms of the votes recorded in the system and the corresponding results tally sheets or not minding the same.
In their defence, Mec lead counsel who is also Attorney General, Kalekeni Kaphale, argued against breaching sections, 40, 76 and 77 of the Constitution defending that even in an event the law was breached there must be a demonstration that it affected the results of the presidential election.
Kaphale and President Peter Mutharika’s lawyer Frank Mbeta also believed that the petitioner’s case was weaker due to absence of monitors who witnessed the management of the results on the ground and the queried irregularities were seen throughout the country and that other candidates also benefited from them.
When contacted, Kaphale said he was on holiday until later in the month.
Mbeta said their team was ready for the judgement
“Having gone through the trial for seven months, we are ready to get the verdict. We will be at the court. Just like any other party, we expect to succeed but let us see how the court will deal with that,” he said.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) Secretary, Martha Kaukonde, said they expect the court to give the judgement based on the facts that were presented accompanied by legal instruments.
“Much as we know that there is likely to be one winner. We are hopeful that the court will really make use of everything that was submitted before it both the facts and the law. We expect the court to use the legal instruments such the constitution, Presidential and Parliamentary Act and other legal instruments that the court may deem to be fit so that it comes up with the reasonable judgement,” she said
We know that there is likely to be one winner and, if that happens, then the other party is going to accept or not then they are going to appeal. So we are hopeful that the court will really make use of everything that was submitted before it—both the facts and the law,” she said
MLS and Women Lawyers Association were friends of the court.
The court heard the case for 59 days with 15 witnesses parading before the court out of the over 700 who furnished the court with sworn statements.
Mec declared Mutharika the winner of the disputed presidential election by 38 percent followed by Chakwera at 35 and Chilima 20 percent.
In the aftermath of the election, Malawi has been on fire with Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leading an unprecedented wave of nationwide demonstrations since June last year, leading to looting and destruction of property.
HRDC has been pushing for the resignation of Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah who has in turn branded such calls mob justice saying she would only resign once the court declares that the presidential election was indeed marred by irregularities.