Malawi’s Supreme Court rules new presidential polls in July

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BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — Malawi’s Supreme Court confirmed Friday that last year’s presidential elections remain nullified and a fresh vote held in July.

The Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the southern African nation’s Constitutional Court that President Peter Mutharika’s 2019 election was invalid because of widespread irregularities.

Mutharika, who leads the Democratic Progressive Party, and the national electoral commission both appealed against the Constitutional Court ruling to the Supreme Court. A seven-member panel of judges denied the appeals on Friday. The Supreme Court also said it wanted the election to be held earlier but “reluctantly” agreed with the Constitutional Court’s initial time frame, so the date of the new vote remains July 2.

It was just the second time a presidential election in Africa has been overturned by the courts, following the courts which ruled against Kenya’s election results in 2017.

The 79-year-old Mutharika was first elected in 2014, succeeding Joyce Banda, who had become president after Mutharika’s elder brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, died while president in 2012.

Mutharika had accused the courts of bias and was cautioned by Supreme Court Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda against making unwarranted allegations against law courts.

The Supreme Court also ruled that only candidates who contested the flawed elections in 2019 should be allowed to stand again in July.

That puts into question President Mutharika’s decision to pick Atupele Muluzi, the son of former President Bakili Muluzi, as his running mate for any new elections this year. Muluzi, who is leader of the opposition United Democratic Front, stood against Mutharika in last year’s elections although he was also a member of his cabinet.

Also in doubt is the decision by opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera, who came second in last year’s polls, to pick Vice President Saulos Chilima, who came third, as his running mate.

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