Malawians will return to the polls in early July for a presidential election rerun ordered by the country’s top court, which annulled last year’s vote results because of irregularities.
“Following the Constitutional Court ruling on February 3 that nullified the presidential elections and ordered that there should be fresh elections, the commission … therefore announces that the elections will be held on 2nd July,” Electoral Commission Chief Jane Ansah told a news conference.
In a landmark ruling last month, the Constitutional Court overturned the outcome of the May 2019 election, which handed President Peter Mutharika a second term in office.
The court said the poll results were fraught with widespread irregularities – in particular, the “massive” use of correction fluid on tally sheets.
It ordered the holding of fresh polls within 150 days, but Mutharika is appealing the court’s ruling. The appeal will be heard in the Supreme Court starting April 15.
A previous attempt by the president to suspend the court ruling was rejected by the top judicial body in February.
The case was the first time a presidential election has been challenged on legal grounds in Malawi since independence from the United Kingdom in 1964, and only the second vote result to be cancelled in Africa after the 2017 Kenya presidential vote.
Meanwhile, despite the threat of coronavirus and an opposition boycott, a constitutional referendum was held in Guinea on Sunday that opponents of President Alpha Conde fear could allow him to govern for 12 more years.
Opposition supporters heeding a call to disrupt the referendum and simultaneous legislative election attacked several polling stations in the capital Conakry, delaying the start of voting in some districts.
At least two people were killed in the unrest and the staff of one polling station were kidnapped, the security ministry said in a televised statement. It also reported a failed attempt to blow up a vehicle.
The opposition boycott all but ensures the new basic law will be approved when results are announced in the coming days, despite the risk it could trigger wider unrest that would, along with the coronavirus, threaten Guinea’s mining economy.
With the first two cases of the COVID-19 disease recorded in the country, some polling stations required voters to wash their hands before casting their ballot and radio stations reminded citizens to keep their distance from one another.
“Even if people are aware (of the coronavirus risk), that won’t stop those who want to come out and vote. I’m trying not to stand too close to others because you never know,” said 26-year-old student Ndeye Toure after voting.
At some polling stations, a large turn-out meant crowds were squeezed in line to vote, according to a Reuters witness. Few people wore masks.
Conde, 81, has refused to rule out using a new constitution as a reset button on his mandate, which expires in December, citing other African countries as examples of where leaders have extended their rule.
The referendum, originally scheduled for March 1, was postponed because international observers raised concerns about the electoral register.
The confirmation of coronavirus cases in the country raised speculation last week that the polls could be further delayed, but the authorities have stuck to the schedule despite banning other large gatherings to prevent the spread of the disease.-Reuters/Al Jazeera.