Judiciary strategises on elections


By Macdonald Thom:

PATEMBA— We are very prepared

As May 21 Tripartite Elections draw closer, stakeholders are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the outcome of the elections is accepted by all.

Malawi News understands that the Judiciary has special preparations for the elections while Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) is seeking services of legal practitioners, who will help it handle electoral disputes.


In 2014, the courts played a crucial role in dealing with issues that arose in the aftermath of that year’s tripartite elections.

In an interview Friday, High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Registrar Agnes Patemba said they have put in place measures that will help them handle the cases.

“We are very prepared. Actually, we have judges meeting in Mangochi strategising on how best we can handle these cases,” Patemba said.


She, however, ruled out the possibility of setting up special courts for electoral disputes.

“There will be no special courts. But we are also anticipating that we might be overwhelmed by the numbers but we are prepared. The good thing is that the High Court Civil Procedure Rules clearly provide timelines within which to handle these cases, so nothing to worry about delays,” she said.

In a related development, Mec is looking for assistance in the form of legal services from sources outside the commission.

The decision has been made while anticipating that, in the period towards polling, during polling and immediately after polling, Mec will be faced with an increased number of electoral

disputes requiring resolution and determination.

It is further anticipated that some of the disputes will culminate into court disputes.

“Depending on the nature of dispute and the locality, it will be technically prudent to have the legal services, sourced as close to the relevant court registry as possible. It is envisaged that the Commission will need to have at its disposal sources of legal services from within all regions and at centrally located court registries. In this case, the Commission will need to hire legal houses from each of the major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu,” reads an advertisement on the issue.

United Nations Development Programme, with support from the Malawi Electoral Cycle Support project, will provide technical and financial assistance.

Mec Chief Elections Officer Sammy Alfandika said, as the electoral body continues working with The Attorney General, the lawyers hired will help in handling electoral complaints that will go to court.

“We have always been hiring lawyers who handle our election cases. It’s not the first time we are doing this. We always hire lawyers for our cases. In the directorate of legal services, there is only one person but we have so many cases. One person cannot handle 20 or 30 cases. He only coordinates,” Alfandika said.

At the height of concerns over irregularities in the electoral process in 2014, amidst calls for recounting of votes, the High Court in Blantyre ruled that Mec should announce the results of the elections.

This was in compliance with constitutional provision that results must be announced within eight days after polling.

In a ruling delivered on May 30 2014 around 10pm, Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda said although Mec could recount the votes, his hands were tied because the law requires that the counting exercise should not go beyond legally stipulated eight days which expired the day the ruling was delivered.

Following the ruling, then Mec chairperson, the late Maxon Mbendera, went on to declare President Peter Mutharika winner of that year’s presidential elections.

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