Malawi’s electoral commission appeals ruling nullifying vote

Vote counting underway in Blantyre, Malawi. The country went to the polls to elect a new president in which 78-year-old President Peter Mutharika is seeking re-election to a second term. File picture: Thoko Chikondi/AP

BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — Malawi’s electoral commission on Friday filed an appeal against this week’s court ruling that nullified last year’s presidential election and ordered a new vote within 150 days because of widespread irregularities.

President Peter Mutharika, the other respondent in the court challenge filed by two opposition candidates, has indicated he will appeal. He called the ruling a “serious miscarriage of justice and attempt to circumvent democracy and the will of the people.”

It was just the second time a presidential election in Africa has been nullified by the courts, following the one in Kenya in 2017.

The date of the fresh election depends on a meeting of Parliament that begins Monday.

The appeal filed by Malawi’s electoral commission, seen by The Associated Press, argues that the judges erred in almost all their findings against the electoral body.

The new filing asks that Monday’s ruling be set aside. A sworn statement by commission chairwoman Jane Ansah who supports the appeal, says the Constitutional Court overstepped its powers by ordering parliament to convene within 21 days to amend the Electoral Act.

Ansah’s statement also asserts that the budget for a fresh election is estimated at $60 million, and she argued that a lot of money could be wasted unless enforcement of the court’s judgment is suspended.

She indicated that a fresh election could be possible by Oct. 28 instead.

Ansah also faulted the court’s order that Parliament look into the competence and conduct of electoral commissioners and staff, saying the court has already criticized their conduct.