Parties to the May 21 Tripartite Elections presidential poll results dispute are today set to make a final push to convince the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe to decide in their favour.
To date, 174 days have passed since the proceedings started. In terms of actual hearing, today marks the 59th day.
In the case being heard by a panel of five judges comprising Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Mike Tembo, Redson Kapindu and Healey Potani as chairperson, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima is the first petitioner with Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) as the second petitioner.
The case has President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the declared winner, as first respondent and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is the second respondent.
In their petition, Chilima and Chakwera, who have religiously attended the court sessions, are challenging the results of the presidential election over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
The duo has also testified in the case alongside a horde of other witnesses, including information and communications technology experts, monitors, MEC officials and party officials.
Officially recorded as Consolidated Election Case Number 16 and 26 of 2019, hearing of the matter started amid political upheaval with demonstrations that turned ugly as Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) demanded the resignation of MEC chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process.
During hearing of the matter, lawyers for both Mutharika and MEC focused on the fact that the alleged irregularities were not significant to influence the results while lawyers for the petitioners attempted to demonstrate how the use of duplicate and fake result sheets, correctional fluid Tippex and failure to adhere to procedures might have compromised the results and disadvantaged those who voted for the petitioners.
Today, the final day with a possibility of hearing extending to tomorrow, petitioners’ lawyers will cross-examine MEC ICT director Muhabi Chisi who yesterday delivered a computer demonstration on how the election Result Management System (RMS) is designed and operates.
MEC has conceded that most of the irregularities took place, but said that did not affect the final result of the elections.
Lawyers for both Chilima and Chakwera will cross-examine Chisi, who was yesterday cross-examined for 10 minutea by Mutharika’s lawyer Frank Mbeta.
Chilima’s lawyers yesterday asked for an early adjournment to prepare for Chisi’s cross-examination. They said they needed to consult UTM Party ICT experts.
Earlier yesterday, the court finished hearing the re-examination of MEC director of electoral services Henzily Munkhondiya by one of the MEC lawyers, Tamando Chokotho and later witnessed the simulation exercise by Chisi which focused on how the MEC system was designed and its security features.
Speaking after Chisi’s presentation, which came against a background of a similar demonstration by one of Chakwera’s witnesses Daud Suleman who testified that the MEC RMS was infiltrated and results were altered in favour of Mutharika by an unknown user.
Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale said the commission was satisfied with what it achieved through its demonstration.
Mutharika was declared winner, officially tallying 38.5 percent of the vote, followed by Chakwera in second position with 35 percent of the vote and Chilima with 20 percent.
Initially, Chakwera and Chilima filed separate petitions to the court, but the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, while certifying the case as a constitutional matter, ordered consolidation of the petitions.
Both MEC and Mutharika immediately asked the court to throw out the petitions citing alleged technical flaws in how the petitions were filed, but both the Constitutional Court and later the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal rejected the request.