Court dismisses poll petition

High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda yesterday dismissed an application by Limbani Kalilani and eight others requesting for a parliamentary vote recount in Lilongwe East Constituency.

In their arguments, the nine petitioners claimed that the voters were corruptly influenced in their voting on May 21, contrary to any provision of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections.

Kalilani performs during the campaign

They also claimed that people were improperly granted ballot papers while a person entitled to them was improperly refused ballot papers by presiding officers at polling centres.

The petitioner’s monitors also alleged that they were prevented from discharging their duty effectively by the presiding officers in the petitioners constituency and that as a result of the irregularities, the results of election was greatly affected and that the first respondent Alfred Jiva was improperly elected as councillor.

In his ruling, the High Court Lilongwe Registry judge stated that while Section 114 of the Parliamentary and Presidential Election Act limits the subject matter of an appeal to a decision of the commission confirming or rejecting the existence of an irregularity, a petition brought in terms of Section 100 can be premised on any other cause whatsoever and not just limited to an irregularity.

Under Section 100 of the Act, the petition can go directly to the High Court while under Section 114, the complaint is enjoined to lie first to the commission, under Section 113 of the Act, and only go to the High Court by way of appeal.

Nyirenda further said his understanding of the provisions of Section 114(1) of the Act is that an appeal under that section lies within a very narrow circumscribed compass.

“It is not all decisions of the commission that can be challenged under Section 114(1) of the Act. The only appeals that can be entertained under this provision are those that challenge a decision of the commission confirming or rejecting the existence of an irregularity.

 “In the present case, I have read and re-read the petition and the exhibits attached thereto in search of a decision of the commission confirming or rejecting the existence of an irregularity but my search has been in vain. In the premises, the petition is wholly misconceived. It is, accordingly, dismissed,” reads the ruling in part.

Kalilani, Chris Thaulo , Mary Clara Makungwa, Lonzoe Zimba, Ginford Maulidi, Ben Montfort Khuleya, Eta Banda, Overton As Imed and Mackovie Zilirakhasu on May 30, 2019, filed with the court a petition against Alfred Jiva , Madalitso Kambauwa, Ken Kandodo, Felix Kasinda Mbewe, Rodrick Khumbanyiwa, Abida Mia, Nowa Freeman Chimpeni, Idi Kalosi, Ezekiel Peter Ching’oma, Malawi Electoral Commission and  Attorney General.

A number of disputes surrounding the May 21 elections have been recorded by the courts with a high profile case involving President Peter Mutharika as the first respondent in the case where presidential hopefuls Saulos Chilima and Lazarus Chakwera are challenging results of the presidential race.

Court documents show that Chilima—the country’s immediate past vice-president who vied for the presidency on a UTM Party ticket—and Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are first and second petitioners, respectively.

When announcing the results on May 27, MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah said the commission had received 147 complaints in connection with the election.

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