Malawi high court rejects president’s call to annul elections

LILONGWE/BLANTYRE (Reuters) – Malawi’s High Court yesterday issued an injunction stopping President Joyce Banda from interfering in the electoral process, making her earlier decision to annul national elections invalid and raising the risk of post-election violence in the southern African country.

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) suspended the country’s election announcement and ordered a re-count of votes, commissioner Chimkwita Phiri said at the national tally centre in Blantyre.

“There’s need for a physical check by opening the actual ballot boxes,” he said, adding that the number of ballots counted exceeded the number of voters registered.

Banda earlier yesterday ordered the cancellation of Malawi’s elections, citing fraud and “rampant irregularities” in a decision that triggered protests and was challenged by the national electoral authority and a political rival.

Banda, who had been standing for re-election, ordered a new vote within 90 days but said she would no longer be a candidate to guarantee a credible outcome.

Malawi’s Electoral Commission (MEC) and one of her main rivals for the presidency who had been leading in the vote count contested her annulment, saying she did not have the constitutional power to cancel the elections.

The court order was granted following an application by lawyers representing the Malawi Electoral Commis-sion (MEC) and Malawi Law Commission and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), respectively.

Phiri warned that the law would take its course if ballots were proven to have been tampered with.

Banda’s decision led to protests at Limbe outside the commercial hub of Blantyre, where demonstrators smashed shops, police said.

The political crisis broke out four days after a problem-plagued vote, where Banda, southern Africa’s first elected female head of state, has seen her popularity eroded by a corruption scandal.

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