LILONGWE — The Constitutional Court in Malawi on Monday nullified the results of last year’s presidential election, citing “widespread, systematic and grave” irregularities including significant use of correction fluid to alter the outcome.
A new vote will be held within 150 days, the court said in its unanimous ruling, saying at the end that it hoped the ruling would not “destroy the nation.’
The two leading opposition candidates had challenged the narrow election win of President Peter Mutharika, alleging that irregularities affected over 1.4 million of the total 5.1 million votes cast.
Months of sometimes deadly unrest followed the announcement of the election results.
The president and electoral commission acknowledged some irregularities but argued they were insufficient to affect the election’s outcome.
Many listened spellbound as the court listed multiple irregularities, from the liberal use of the correction fluid Tipp-Ex that “greatly undermined” the vote’s integrity to the lack of signatures on some results forms. The court told the country’s parliament to evaluate whether the electoral commission can conduct the new election.
The judges even challenged the electoral system, saying the results suggested that no one was elected by a majority in accord with the Constitution, citing dictionary definitions of majority and plurality. It ordered parliament to meet within 21 days to come up with a new law to guide the fresh elections.
Mutharika had been declared the narrow winner of Malawi’s May election with 38% of votes, followed by Lazarus Chakwera with 35% and former vice president Saulos Chilima third with 20%. The four other candidates collectively got nearly 6%.
Additional reporting by agencies