By Macdonald Thom & Jameson Chauluka:
The High Court in Lilongwe has reserved its ruling on an application by Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) to vacate an injunction granted to Malawi Congress Party (MCP) restraining the electoral body from announcing results of Tuesday’s presidential elections.
On Saturday, MCP obtained an injunction restraining Mec from announcing results of presidential elections.
After meeting in court yesterday morning for the application to vacate the injunction, MCP lawyers said they wanted more time to look at documents which Mec had filed.
And when the court reconvened in the afternoon, for close to four hours, both parties raised their arguments.
According to Mec Director of Legal Services, David Banda, after hearing arguments from Mec and MCP, Judge Charles Mkandawire told them that he would make a ruling within a reasonable time.
One of the key issues which Mec is raising is that the High Court does not have powers to handle the issue at this stage.
This is also the argument Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Peter Mutharika are advancing.
“The stay order was wrongly granted by the court because rules require that an order in any election matter must be granted inter-partes. The court must hear both sides. We also said there is nothing that has to be reviewed by the court because the procedure is that the Electoral Commission should first of all make a decision and then somebody must come to court so that the decision should be reviewed,” Banda said.
One of MCP’s lawyers, Pempho Likongwe, who said they are arguing that the court has powers, said there were many irregularities which have to be addressed before Mec announces results of the elections.
“The MCP and Dr [Lazarus] Chakwera came to court because there are serious irregularities in the elections, which the electoral commission is not addressing…There are serious discrepancies. In some instances, the tally sheets we have have higher votes for Chakwera but the figures that went to Mec were lower for Chakwera and higher votes for Mutharika. We want these issues to be resolved before the results for the presidential elections are announced,” Likongwe said.
Meanwhile, Malawi Law Society (MLS) has joined the matter as friends of the court.
The society’s secretary, Martha Kaukonde, said there were a number of issues that the court must consider before making a ruling.
“As MLS, we joined the case so that we can give insights as to what the law states with regard to the issues that are in dispute. We raised our issues, highlighting legal provisions that the court should also consider when making its decision,” Kaukonde said.
Over 20 lawyers, some on duty, some evidently not on duty but seemingly interested in the case, started gathering at the court premises around 9 o’clock in the morning.
Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale, MCP lead counsel Titus Mvalo, former Attorney General Charles Mhango, former Minister of Justice Samuel Tembenu were some of the lawyers who went to the court.
Also present were members of MCP, DPP, People’s Party and other political parties.
The High Court on Saturday granted MCP permission to apply for judicial review on the issue of elections, and also granted it an injunction restraining Mec from announcing results of the presidential elections until results from Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mangochi, Blantyre, Zomba, Mulanje, Chitipa, Rumphi, Karonga and Nkhata Bay are verified through a transparent recounting of the ballot papers.
Following MCP’s injunction, Mec cannot release results of the presidential election. On Saturday, the commission only released results of parliamentary elections in 192 constituencies where they were held.
In the last update on how candidates were performing, Mec Chairperson, Jane Ansah, said Mutharika was leading with 1,436,877, followed by Chakwera who had 1,257,583 votes. Saulos Chilima was third with 651,124 votes.
Meanwhile, Ansah Sunday declined to comment on the injunction and why the commission was challenging the court order which MCP sought to help the commission deliver credible elections.
“When a matter is in court we all know that we cannot talk about it; so, we will wait until all the court processes are finalised,” Ansah said when addressing journalists at Comesa Hall in Blantyre.
Ansah, however, maintained that Mec is determined to deliver credible elections.
She challenged party representatives to bring to its attention any discrepancies in results which the commission gives them and what their monitors tell them.
Ansah said she wanted to complete the work within the prescribed eight days, saying the elections have an overwhelming impact on people’s lives.
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