Pressure mounts on Malawi election officials to quit

Saturday February 15 2020

Malawi Electoral Commission staff count votes after the May 2019 presidential polls. PHOTO | AFP

Malawi Electoral Commission staff count votes after the May 2019 presidential polls. Members of the Malawi Electoral Commission who presided over the controversial May 2019 elections are facing immense pressure as calls mount for them to vacate office. PHOTO | AFP 

KITSEPILE NYATHI
By KITSEPILE NYATHI
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Members of the Malawi Electoral Commission who presided over the controversial May 2019 elections are facing immense pressure as calls mount for them to vacate office and let a new team in.

The results were recently annulled by the local constitutional court which in its ruling ordered an audit of the electoral process as part of the roadmap to fresh polls in 150 days.

The court also ordered a parliamentary inquiry into the suitability of the MEC commissioners to remain in office in view of the sham elections. The commissioners’ submissions so far have exposed an institution on the brink of an implosion.

A five-judge bench labelled the Commission as incompetent.

Already, Parliament has begun a probe into events that led to irregularities that saw the Constitutional Court on February 4 to cancel the results which had given Prof Peter Mutharika another five-year term in office.

Some commissioners set the cat among the pigeons when they revealed that MEC chairperson Jane Ansah made unilateral decisions, including announcing disputed election results.

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Now Justice Ansah, a former Supreme Court of Appeal judge is under pressure to resign for her role in the poll fiasco.

One of the commissioners, Bishop Mary Nkosi, told MPs that disputes over results were not dealt with professionally by the MEC.

“We erred in announcing somebody as a winner,” Bishop Nkosi said.

She said that the MEC had rushed to announce the results despite the glaring irregularities because the commission was politicised and its head made unilateral decisions.

Bishop Nkosi’s admission that the commission was to blame for the sham election, however, was in sharp contrast to submissions by Justice Ansah and other commissioners who remained defiant amid a barrage of questions from the MPs.

Justice Ansah told parliament that she will only resign if the Supreme Court rejected President Mutharika’s appeal against the Constitutional Court judgement.

The government has appealed against the ruling, arguing that the court overstepped its powers.

Some commissioners said they had considered resigning long before the court annulled the results, but were held back by the desire not to lose their terminal benefits.

But on Wednesday, the MEC was dealt a further blow when the Constitutional Court rejected its appeal to suspend the enforcement of the ruling that ordered fresh elections.

Meanwhile, civil society groups plan to return to the streets to force Justice Ansah and other commissioners to resign.

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