The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal will on March 11 hear application for the stay of Constitutional Court judgment nullifying presidential elections in the May 21 2019 polls.
Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) lawyer David Matumika Banda said the commission has not withdrawn the application from the Supreme Court to have the Constitutional Court order stayed until the main appeal is heard.
“The court has in fact given us new directions relating to the suspension/stay of the judgment of 3rd February 2020. The application will be heard on 11th March 2020 at 2 PM in Lilongwe,” Banda said.
President Peter Mutharika, who was the first respondent in the case, is not party to the application to have the order stayed but appealed against the whole judgment.
Mutharika’s lawyer Tamando Chokhotho said there is no date yet for the appeal.
“So far, no. There is no date for the appeal. We are just waiting to hear from the courts,” Chokhotho said.
UTM president Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera went to the court challenging May 21 2019 presidential elections saying they were marred by irregularities.
According to Mec, Mutharika got 1,940, 709 votes against Chakwera’s 1,781, 740 votes and Chilima’s 1,018, 369 votes.
Following the Constitutional Court judgment on February 3 nullifying the elections, Mutharika and Mec, the second respondent, appealed against the ruling.
On top of the appeal against the actual judgment, Mec also applied for the suspension of implementation of the Constitutional Court order until the appeal is finalised, an application the court also dismissed on February 12.
Among other arguments, Mec cited high cost of running the fresh elections which it said will cost around K43 billion.
The commission also asked for an extension of time from 150 days to 261 days if they are to hold the elections, essentially proposing to hold the elections on October 28.
But delivering its judgment, the court dismissed Mec’s application stressing that democracy is an inherently expensive process while protecting the rights of citizens to have a legitimate person to govern them.
“It is expected that, in the course of determining who are legitimate leaders in a democratic set-up, expenses have to be incurred, therefore expense is not an important impediment in pursuit of election of leaders in line with applicable Constitution,” reads the ruling in part.
Meanwhile, Parliament has decided that the fresh elections should be held on May 19 2020 after passing the Presidential, Parliamentary Elections Act Amendment bills.
Among others, the bills, which are yet to be assented to by Mutharika, provide for a runoff within 30 days in case that no candidate gets 50-percent-plus-one of votes in the elections.
This follows one of the consequential orders directed at the National Assembly which was for Parliament to enact enabling legislation to amend the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act in order to put into effect the interpretation of Section 80(2) of the Constitution which says the president shall be elected by a majority of electorate through direct universal and equal suffrage.