Court nullifies Malawi president’s suspension of elections

Earlier President Banda nullified the whole electoral process. She cited Section 88 (2) of the Malawi Constitution to make the proclamation. The section reads: “The President shall provide executive leadership in the interest of national unity in accordance with this Constitution and the laws of the Republic.”

But constitutional law expert Edge Kanyongolo, associate professor of law at the University of Malawi, faulted the President, saying the section she quoted does not grant her executive powers to stop an election. He quoted Section 76 (4) of the same Constitution which reads: “The Electoral Commission shall exercise its powers, functions and duties under this section independent of any direction or interference by other authority or any person.”

Said Kanyongolo: “My initial react was that of surprise because no section immediately came to mind that empowers the President to do that. The section she quoted does not give her those powers. The section does say there must be leadership but it does not override powers of the Malawi Electoral Commission in managing elections,” he said.

He added: “I am puzzled, I am struggling to see how the cited Section 88(2) gives the President the power to do that, it only gives her general power but not specific powers over election,” he said.

But Banda said the elections were marred with a lot of irregularities and must be stopped. 

“The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairman himself admitted having discrepancies in the electoral process. For instance, some centres registered twice the numbers of initial registered voters,” she said.

According to a MEC statement, elections in at least 19 centres have been ‘quarantined’ because figures of those who voted were more than those on the voters’ roll.

Banda, therefore, ordered a halt to the entire electoral process, saying there should be fresh polls in 90 days.

“I won’t stand in those elections,” she said. “I will let Malawi choose a leader of their choice.”

But MEC Chairman Supreme Court of Appeal judge Maxon Mbendera urged electoral staff to continue working,

“We have a duty to give Malawians the results and so stick with me and God bless you,” he said.

Meanwhile, supporters of Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party DPP) whom unofficial exit polls give him a slight lead, reacted violently in the capital, Lilongwe. They stoned shops and vehicles.

Soldiers of the Malawi Defence Forces are currently patrolling the streets. Soldiers are also patrolling the streets of Blantyre but no incident has been reported.

MEC is required by law to release results within eight days from polling day. Mbendera, the MEC Chairman, said the electoral body will meet the deadline.

“We have done over 50 percent of the work,” he told Maravi Post late Saturday. “We don’t want to be rushed; we need to do a thorough job.”

Banda, 64 – Africa’s second female president who came to power in April, 2013, following the death of President Bingu WA Mutharika, is facing the closest poll Malawi has ever had. The younger Mutharika, 74, and Chakwera, 59, have realistic chances of evicting Banda from State House.

Former president Bakili Muluzi’s son, Atupele Muluzi – who, at 35, is the youngest presidential candidate in the history of Malawi, was also a serious contender in these elections but unofficial tallies does not give him even an outside chance of causing an upset. The young Muluzi is running under the banner of the United Democratic Front (UDF) founded by his father.

Eight other candidates, including one other woman, are also running.-theglobalvillage

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