Malawi lawmakers on Thursday rejected a bill that would have meant a president could only be re-elected after securing at least 50 percent of votes cast, dismissing a landmark order by the country’s top court.
In its historic ruling, earlier this month the Constitutional Court overturned last year’s election of President Peter Mutharika and also ordered that a candidate should be chosen by more than 50% of the ballots cast.
Under the current first-past-the-post electoral system for choosing a president Mutharika won the election with 38.5% of the votes cast, a narrow win against his closest opponent Lazarus Chakwera.
Just 109 parliamentarians voted in favour of the bill, failing to reach the two-thirds majority of 128 required to amend the constitution.
The constitutional court in Malawi has annulled last year’s disputed presidential election results, citing “widespread” irregularities and ordered a new vote.
The election last May returned the sitting president to power, leading to deadly confrontations and widespread unrest.
In their ruling, which lasted about 10 hours, a panel of five judges comprising ordered a fresh presidential election to be held within 150 days.
The 500-page ruling cited the widespread use of unauthorised correctional fluid, Tippex, to alter figures, the use of duplicate result sheets and unsigned results forms as cases that compromised the outcome of the elections.
The courts admonished the electoral body for an abrogation of duty, saying the manner in which the May 21 presidential election was held demonstrated incompetency and infringed on citizens’ constitutional rights.
“The position of this court is that the widespread use of Tippex greatly undermined the integrity of the elections so much that applying the qualitative approach, the argument by the second respondent (Malawi Electoral Commission) that the valid vote count was not affected and that no monitor came forward to raise a complaint does not matter and this argument is thrown out”, the ruling stated.
The court further ordered that the new elections be held under a majoritarian system, a legal provision which was rejected by the Malawi Parliament some two years ago, who instead opted for simple majority system.
The Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association (SADC-LA) has lauded the ruling of the Malawi Constitutional Court in the 2019 electoral petition.
The chief executive officer of the SADC-LA, Stanley Nyamanhindi, said the association joins progressive forces on the African continent, civic society and the people of Malawi in celebrating a demonstration of strongly embedded rule of law and constitutional democracy.
“A beacon of hope in the midst of so much despair as seen in the suffering of many an ordinary African citizen has been lit. The Malawi Constitutional Court has ruled that fresh elections be held in Malawi due to irregularities that marred the 21 May 2019 elections,” he said.
Nyamanhindi said the electoral petition outcome presents a clarion call to SADC and her citizens to tend to the ensuing process to an outcome that presents real change for the lives of ordinary citizens in Malawi, and not just to merely deliver a free and fair election in the next 149 says.
Following the court ruling, the Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in his statement preceding the judgment, encouraged Malawians across the board to respect the outcome of the court ruling.
“SADC-LA further exhorts its office and the SADC to put in place measures to guarantee implementation of the court decision in letter and spirit. Not only before and during the polling period but most importantly, after the elections,” said Nyamanhindi.
The Southern Times