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May 19 poll on

JUBILANT—Chakwera (2nd left) and Chilima (2nd right) outside the court

A panel of seven Supreme Court of Appeal judges Thursday unanimously threw out an appeal by Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) seeking to be granted a stay order stopping the Constitutional Court ruling of February 3 2020 that fresh presidential election should be held within 150 days.

The Supreme Court’s decision means that Mec should continue preparing for the poll slated for May 19 2020 in respect of the Constitutional Court’s nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court is on April15 expected to hear an appeal by Mec and President Peter Mutharika on the Constitutional Court ruling.

Among other points, the panel threw out the application for lacking basis for the suspension of the Constitutional Court order.

Just after the court delivered the ruling, the court premises erupted into jubilation as Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM supporters celebrated the victory.

UTM leader Saulos Chilima, and his MCP counterpart Lazarus Chakwera were petitioners in the landmark case that culminated in the February 3 judgement nullifying the election results due to massive irregularities. President Peter Mutharika and Mec were respondents in the case.

Chakwera and Chilima yesterday could not hide their excitement as they screamed in joy, celebrating the verdict.

“Its 3-0,” said a jubilant Chilima, adding that they won the election case, the Constitutional Court order against the stay and the Supreme Court order.

Chakwera described yesterday’s ruling as a victory for Malawi.

“This is a victory for Malawi. Across this nation, the expectation is that we should be a country that respects the rule of law and this is an example of that. Now they have nowhere to go. As far as this is concerned, we must go ahead with preparations for fresh election,” Chakwera said.

UTM lawyer, Khumbo Soko, said their expectation is that Mec will start taking active steps to comply with the ruling.

Mec lawyer Tamando Chokhotho said his client will comply with the court’s direction.

Chokhotho had earlier indicated that 150 days were not enough for Mec to hold a credible election.

But in an interview yesterday, Chokhotho said his client will see how that would be possible, whether it would be a question of taking shortcuts.

Mec’s appeal case against the February 3 ruling, which annulled the May 21 election results, will be heard on April 15.

The Supreme Court judges who will hear the case include Justices Edward Twea, Anaclet Chipeta, Anthony Kamanga, Frank Kapanda and Rezin Mzikamanda.

Mec Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, will not sit on the panel due to conflict of interest whereas Justice Dunstain Mwaungulu was as of last week reported unwell.

Apart from the Supreme Court case, President Peter Mutharika is yet to assent to electoral reform bills which parliament passed in tandem with the Constitutional Court ruling that the august House must come up with legislation to operationalise enforcement of the clarified meaning of 50 percent-plus-one majority required for one to win the presidency as opposed to the previous First-past-the post simple majority.

In the nullified May 21 presidential polls’ results, Mutharika was deemed to have won by 38 percent followed by Chakwera (35) and Chilima (20) prompting the MCP and UTM leaders to petition the court due to massive irregularities.

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