Malawi’s constitutional court on Monday has ordered a new presidential poll after annulling the results of a vote that re-elected President Peter Mutharika last May, citing widespread irregularities including the use of correction fluid on ballot papers.
Mutharika, who will remain president until the fresh polls, has the right to appeal the verdict, which is expected to stoke turmoil in the normally peaceful southern African country.
“We hold that the first respondent (Mutharika) was not duly elected as president of Malawi on May 21, 2019,” ruled lead judge Healey Potani.
“We hereby nullify the results of the presidential elections and we order for a fresh election” within 150 days, he added, sparking jubilation in the court.
The verdict was greeted with festive cheer in the second city of Blantyre, where residents in impoverished townships set off fireworks.
“I’m delighted. I am short of words really but this is a bright new day for Malawi, ” said an university student Laura Banda.
“I hope this is a turning point for the country,” the 22-year-old added.
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party, which led the court challenge, hailed the ruling as “a very fair judgement” that had “set a precedent” for future elections.
The five judges concurred that “the irregularities and anomalies have been so widespread, systematic and grave… that the integrity of the results has been seriously compromised”.
They added that the results announced by Malawi’s Electoral Commission (MEC) “cannot be trusted as a true reflection of the will of the voters”.