President Peter Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commissioners, who were respondents in the presidential election case, have reserved their reactions to the Constitutional Court’s judgement ordering fresh election within 150 days.
On Monday, the court sitting in Lilongwe ruled in favour of petitioners Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima who petitioned the court saying the May 21 presidential election results were marred by irregularities.
Mutharika’s lawyer Frank Mbeta Tuesday said they want to analyse the judgement before commenting on the matter.
“We are waiting for the copy of the judgement for our analysis and advice to the client. We will wait for his instructions on the way forward and will advise you accordingly,” he said.
The government spokesperson, Mark Botomani, also declined to comment on the verdict.
“As [the] government, we don’t think it is ideal to comment on the judgement, probably later on when some consultations are done then we can always come out to speak. We must also commend men and women in uniform for managing to contain the situation ensuring that there is security in the country,” he said.
Mec Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, has also remained mum on her earlier commitment to step down if the court found her wanting in the way the commission presided over the elections.
Ansah, in June last year, told the press that she would only resign once the court establishes that she acted unlawfully in the elections, branding calls for her ouster before the court determination as ‘mob justice’.
Now the court nullified the presidential election on the basis that it was riddled with widespread, systematic and grave irregularities.
Ansah could not pick up the calls yesterday but she told a local radio station that Attorney General, Kalekeni Kaphale, who represented Mec in the matter, was better placed to comment on issues regarding the case.
Reports suggest that Ansah is due for retirement as Mec commissioner in April.
One of the commissioners, Jean Mathanga, said either Mec Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Sammy Alfandika, or Director of Media and Communication, Sangwani
Mwafulirwa, were better placed to comment on the need for the calls for the commissioners to resign.
“On that I cannot comment much. Talk to the CEO or Mec spokesperson because they are the ones who speak for the commission,” Mathanga said.
Among others, the court found that Mec violated Section 40 subsection (3), Section 76 subsection 2d and Section 77 subsection 5 of the Constitution.
“In view of the gravity of the said violations and breaches, it is our view that the conduct of the second respondent [Mec] in managing the said elections was very lacking and demonstrated incompetence for failing in multiple dimensions to follow clearly laid out legal processes for the conduct of such elections,” chairperson of the panel of five judges, Healey Potani, said when delivering the judgement.
The panel of the judges also faulted the decision by commissioners to delegate judicial powers to Alfandika during and after elections when matters in question were appealable.
The court also said Mec announced contaminated results after approving results that were not audited and verified.
The court also advised Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament to scrutinise the commissioners in terms of conduct and competence to hold fresh elections.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, Tuesday called for the immediate resignation of Ansah.
Mtambo said if Ansah, commissioners and management of Mec continue to cling to their seats, HRDC will hold demonstrations.
“For a long time, we have been saying that Ansah presided over an unfair election and we have been demonstrating calling her to resign. On Monday, HRDC was vindicated by the court. She must go for wasting our time and resources as a country,” Mtambo said.
The Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament Chairperson, Sosten Gwengwe, has since said the mid-year budget meeting, which starts next Monday, should prioritise allocating resources for the fresh presidential election.
“Budgeting is about prioritising and an issue that ‘we don’t have money’ does not arise because during budget review, we are given a chance to prioritise what is urgent in the country. From the court decision, everybody knows that the priority is to have fresh election,” he said.
Minister of Finance Joseph Mwanamvekha, said resources are always a challenge but asked for more time to revert on the matter.
Last year, Mec budgeted K46 billion for the tripartite elections of which K3.4 billion went towards printing of ballot papers for the polls.
On the budget estimates, Mwafulirwa said there was need for proper budgeting to come up with estimates for the fresh election.
“It is very difficult to estimate how a presidential election alone would cost unless we do proper budgeting. People should not be tempted to think it would be one third of the tripartite elections. With tripartite elections, there is synergy which lowers some costs,” he said.