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 Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) had declared President Peter Mutharika the narrow winner of the May election with 38 percent of votes, followed by Lazarus Chakwera with 35 percent and former Vice President Saulos Chilima third with 20 percent.
The four other candidates collectively got nearly 6 percent.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, the two contenders petitioned the court to have the results nullified citing several irregularities.
Since the announcement of the election results over eight months ago, Malawi has experienced a spate of protests across the country demanding the resignation of Jane Ansah, the chairwoman of the MEC for allegedly mismanaging the elections.
While there have been disputes over past elections in Malawi, this is the first time a presidential vote result has been overturned in the country. It is the second country in sub-Saharan Africa to see its election results annulled, after Kenya’s top court in 2017 overturned the result of a presidential vote.