Law expert says alliances not affected by court ruling

Dean of Law at the University of Malawi Sunduzwayo Madise says the electoral alliances formed by political leaders have not been affected by Friday’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in the presidential elections case.

Madise made the remarks today, a day after Malawi’s top court ruled that only candidates who contested in the nullified last year’s May 21 elections are eligible to stand in the forthcoming fresh presidential polls.

Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party who finished second in the annulled polls has partnered with Saulos Chilima of UTM party who was on third position while President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party has picked Atupele Muluzi of UDF, who became fourth in the 2019 polls, as his runningmate.

The Supreme Court ruling led to claims that Chilima and Muluzi are not eligible to be runningmates in the 2020 elections.

However, Madise said the ruling only bars new candidates who did not take part in the last year’s polls.

“The departure point is to understand that the issue is about eligibility. Therefore, those who were eligible in 2019 as voters or candidates will be eligible as voters and candidates in 2020.

“Meaning, any of the 2019 candidates are free to contest because we were affected, however, no new candidate will be allowed.

“Now it’s important to appreciate that the law recognizes the presidential candidate as the one who collects and presents nomination forms. The running mate position is sort of an ancillary position” said Madise in his Facebook post.

Chilima and Chakwera

He further said that any candidate who competed in last year’s elections is free to continue with his candidature or withdraw since the law does not force them to do either way.

“That is why last week; each candidate unveiled their running mate. Since candidates are eligible and not forced, nothing stops them from withdrawing their candidature…it must be clear that the judgment does not affect the alliances that have been recently forged,” concluded the law expert.

Among others, the panel of seven Supreme Court Judges led by the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda also ordered that only voters who voted in 2019 elections will be eligible to vote in the fresh elections.

On February 3 this year, the panel of five Judges sitting as the Constitutional Court ordered for the fresh presidential polls after it found that last year’s May 21 polls had several irregularities as per petitions and evidences which were submitted by the Vice President Chilima and Chakwera who were the first and second petitioners in the case respectively.

Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commission who were the first and second respondents on the matter challenged and appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of Appeal which agreed with a number of determinations made by the lower court including that in Section 80 (2) majority means 50% plus one and that the electoral body flouted many laws that governs the elections which prompted for the first respondent to not be duly elected.

As part of the activities ahead of the fresh presidential polls scheduled for July 2 this year, this week presidential candidates presented their nominations to the electoral body at the Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre