Legal battle lines drawn as Malawi elections result dispute case starts

Legal battle lines are distinctly drawn as a  five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court starts hearing petitions to nullify presidential results in the May 21 Tripartite Elections in Lilongwe as hoping to end the current heightened political crisis.

Both petitioners and responded have an equally formidable legal team between them

Just two hours into the hearing,  Malawi Electoral Commisison (MEC) through Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale (AG), a Senior Counsel (SC), asked for a six-day adjournment, saying the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legal team served his office with sworn affidavits as late as Wednesday.

He therefore asked the five-judge panel sitting on the case for the adjournment, saying him and his team wanted to study the affidavits as they will base his arguments in the case.

The adjournment plea was enchoed by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawyer David Kanyenda citing the same reason.

He said the new materials were not on record hence to be reviewed and new sworn statements to be compiled.

David Kanyenda said  the party wants some of the affidavits to be declared “ineffectual.”

But UTM lawyer Marshal Chilenga stood to raise an objection, saying  the court is yet to deal with the Attorney General’s request first and the matter by lawyer Kanyenda is not related.

On Attorney General request,  Chilenga said the adjournment application is “misconceived”.

Said Chilenga: “These are reply statements from what we were served. After a reply, no other docent can be filed, the applicant in a misconception,” said Chilenga.

Chilenga added: “ There is an application to meet presiding officers again. That issue was already dealt with, there is no need to meet with presiding officers again.”

MCP legal counsel Mordecai Msiska said the six days being asked for are too much compared to the five days which they were given to respond to about 642 files.

“If we go by that, then a day is enough. Again, calling for an adjournment to the whole hearing is not on. We can start hearing from the first petitioner whilst they work on the files,” he said.

Msiska further urged the court to consider that the sworn statements mentioned by the AG contains material that could have been part of disclosure that MEC didn’t disclose.

He said  the Court already found MEC in breach of it’s order to disclose such materials.

Lawyers for  petitioners stated that  the court had already ruled that when the hearing starts, there should be no more adjournments.

The court is expected to make its ruling on the matter in the afternoon at 2pm.

Chilima and Chakwera are challenging results of the presidential election which MEC chairperson Jane Ansah declared was won by Mutharika. The results indicated that Chakwera was second and Chilima third.

Chakwera contends that Mutharika “won a fraudulent election” fraught with irregularities, including alleged stuffing of ballot papers with pre-marked ballots, tampering with election results sheets through correction fluid – Tippex – and being found in possession of  result sheets at home.

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