By Morton Sibale, MANA
Malawi Election Commission (MEC) has announced that it will no longer register new voters but only handle those that wish to process transfers or replace lost voter certificates.
This follows Friday’s ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal that ordered that there should be no new registration for the fresh presidential election but to use the same registered voters used for the 2019 election.
The transfers or replacement of lost voter certificates process will continue up to 4.00pm on 10 May, 2020 in the following councils: Rumphi, Likoma, Dowa, Lilongwe District, Lilongwe City, Lunchenza Municipality, Phalombe Mulanje and Thyolo.
MEC said in a statement that it will advise how it will proceed with transfers and replacement of lost voter certificates in the remaining districts.
“The Commission is also informing all stakeholders that all the new voter registrations that took place in phase one and the current phase have been invalidated and will not be incorporated in the 2019 Tripartite Elections voters register as per Supreme Court of Appeal judgement.
“All persons who registered in the May 2019 Tripartite Elections who have changed places of residence are advised to go and process transfers at the centre where they wish to cast their vote.
“Those who have lost their certificates are encouraged to go to the centre where they registered to get a duplicate certificate that will enable them to vote,” said the stem et signed by MEC’s Chief Elections Officer, Sam Alfandika.
The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on Friday unanimously upheld the ruling of the Constitutional Court that nullified the May 21, 2019 presidential election, meaning the country will proceed to hold a fresh presidential election on July 2.
However, the highest court on the land clarified that the lower court should have ordered the re-run to take place within 60 days and not 150 days, as per the law.
Delivering the judgement at Lilongwe District Registry, the panel of seven Supreme Court judges led by the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda dismissed the grounds of appeal by both President Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission, describing most of them as ‘baseless and without merit.’
“We agree with the court below that the commission (MEC) demonstrated serious incompetence and negligence in exercising its constitutional duties, which poses serious danger to our democracy.
“We therefore dismiss the appeal,” reads part of the judgment.
Some of the areas that the two appellants claimed the lower court erred on in its February 3 judgement included the court’s ruling on legality of Constituency Tally Centre and use of fake and tippexed tally sheets.
Others were the use of result sheets that did not have signatures of presiding officers, the court’s use of qualitative and quantitative methods in determining electoral petitions and the commission’s handling of complaints emanating from the election.
On the commission’s delegation of its Chief Elections Officer to resolve complaints, the court held that the lower court was correct in faulting the arrangement, saying the duty of determining complaints can only be done by commissioners as per the law.
“The manner of delegation to resolve complaints smacks of irresponsibility. There is no legal authority to delegate power of determining complaints to the CEO or anyone else.
“The CEO is not part of the Commission. Judicial and quasi-Judicial powers cannot be delegated to the CEO or any other employee of the commission,” reads the judgment.
The court also dismissed the arguments that the constitutional court erred in its determination regarding party monitors appending signatures to result sheets.
“The signature of a monitor doesn’t guarantee a credible election. The claim that monitors did not complain about the results and therefore, there was a credible election is baseless.
“We therefore agree with the court below that the duty of ensuring a credible election rests with the commission as a duty bearer according to the law,” said judge Chikopa in reading part of the judgment.
The court also upheld the Constitutional Court’s ruling on ‘majority’ rule, consequently upholding that a president should be elected with 50%+1 of the total votes.
This ultimately confirms the country’s complete departure from the old system of first-past-the-post.
“The 50%+1 rule of determining a winner in a presidential election ensures the legitimacy of a president and guards against manipulation of votes and formation of surrogate parties aimed at spreading votes with the aim of benefiting a particular candidate,” reads the judgement.
The court also upheld the ruling of the Constitutional Court on the role of the office of the Attorney General in similar matters, adding that MEC had no basis for appealing against the decision of the lower court on the matter.
“The court below should have made that position sooner. The Attorney General should not have been part of the proceedings immediately it became a constitutional matter.
“The role of the office in this matter should have been to help the court determine the three constitution questions as Government legal advisor and legal officer, and not represent a party,” the judgment reads.
Commenting on the ruling, Malawi Congress Party President Lazarus Chakwera, who was second respondent in the case, said the judgement affirmed people’s trust in the country’s judicial system.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the bar that was raised by the Constitutional Court and we believe that Malawi will set an example not only on the African continent but across the world,” Chakwera said.
DPP Secretary General Grezelder Jeffrey was not immediately available for interview after the ruling.
The High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court on February 3, this year nullified the May 2019 election on grounds of widespread, gross and systematic irregularities that compromised the integrity of the election.
This followed Chakwera and Chilima’s petitions that challenged the election of DPP’s candidate and incumbent President Arthur Peter Mutharika.
The electoral body and Mutharika appealed the judgement to the Supreme Court.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira