Malawi president lashes out against poll nullification

President Peter Mutharika has accused Malawi’s judiciary of agitating for regime change after the courts nullified last year’s presidential vote and ordered fresh elections by July 3.

Malawi’s top court rejected Mutharika’s bid to overturn the landmark ruling quashing his controversial re-election, paving the way for a re-run, scheduled for July 2.

In his first reaction to the May 8 ruling, Mutharika bemoaned on Friday the decisions by the Constitutional Court and the subsequent upholding of the verdict by the Supreme Court of Appeal as a travesty of justice.

“The court did not follow the evidence and the law. To me it was a judicial coup d’etat,” Mutharika told the state broadcaster on Friday, adding that the courts simply decided they wanted to get rid of the government. 

The historic case is the first time a presidential election has been challenged on legal grounds in Malawi since the southern African country’s independence from Britain in 1964.

Mutharika had garnered just 38.5 percent of the annulled May 21 vote to win a second term but the Constitutional Court cited “grave” and “widespread” irregularities, including the use of correction fluid on ballot papers.

Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission appealed the decision but the Supreme court upheld the ruling with Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda saying “some of the grounds for appeal were not just fictious but purely unprofessional, disrespectful and distasteful.”

The octogenarian leader, a Yale law alumni and former Washington University law professor, said it was sad the courts decided to nullify the elections despite the fact that they found that they were not rigged and that the irregularities did not affect the outcome.

“What has happened now is that they have set a standard that whenever there is an election and there is an irregularity, that election will be nullified.

“All over the world, people are laughing at Malawi… people are laughing at the judiciary in Malawi because what happened was totally ridiculous,” Mutharika said.

He will face off against leading opposition politician Lazarus Chakwera at the July poll.

A third hopeful is little-known Peter Kuwani of the Mbakuwaku Movement for Development.