Malawi court annuls President Mutharika’s 2019 election victory

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LILONGWE (Reuters) – Malawi’s Constitutional Court on Monday annulled the May 2019 presidential vote that declared Peter Mutharika a winner and ordered a re-run after an application from opposition parties citing irregularities.

Malawi’s President Arthur Peter Mutharika addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Mutharika, Malawi president since 2014, won the election with a 38.57% share of the vote, with opposition party leader Lazarus Chakwera getting 35.41% and Deputy President Saulos Chilima 20.24% in the final tally.

The electoral commission declared Mutharika the winner despite complaints of irregularities including results sheets with sections blotted out or altered with correction fluid.

Chakwera, the president’s main rival, and Chilima rejected the results and filed a petition to the High Court asking it to nullify the results.

A panel of five judges ordered that a new presidential vote be held within 150 days.

“The use of Tippex (correction fluid) was in contravention of international accounting standards. Alterations are an irregularity and undermined the integrity of elections outcome,” said one of the judges, Justice Ivy Kamanga.

The streets in Lilongwe and the commercial capital Blantyre were unusually quiet ahead of the ruling, and many businesses were shut, fearing violence and looting from supporters of the losing side.

Security forces were out on the streets in large numbers, and the judges delivering the verdict were flown in on a military plane and arrived at the venue in armoured vehicles.

Malawi, a poor, lakeside nation on the southern tip of the Great Rift Valley, is dependent on foreign aid and is frequently beset by drought which threatens the lives of thousands of people.

Former law professor Mutharika, 79, oversaw infrastructure improvements and a slowdown in inflation in his first five-year term, but critics accuse him of cronyism and failing to tackle graft.

Reporting by Frank Phiri; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Grant McCool

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