February 7, 2020 / 4:47 PM / 20 days ago

Malawi President Mutharika appeals ruling overturning his election victory

FILE PHOTO: Malawi's President Peter Mutharika addresses guests during his inauguration ceremony in Blantyre, Malawi, May 31, 2019.REUTERS/Eldson Chagara/File Photo

BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika and the country’s electoral commission have formally filed an appeal against a court ruling that overturned Mutharika’s narrow election victory last year.

Earlier this week, the Constitutional Court annulled the vote held last May that returned Mutharika to power as president. It cited “widespread, systematic and grave” irregularities, which included results sheets with sections blotted out or altered with correction fluid.

“I can confirm that the court has received both appeals by first respondent (the president) and second respondent (electoral commission),” High Court Registrar Agnes Patemba told Reuters on Friday.

Mutharika had denounced the ruling as “a serious subversion of justice, an attack on our democratic systems and an attempt to undermine the will of the people”.

The electoral commission argues that the judgment was based on several issues that were not raised in the original petitions by main opposition party leader Lazarus Chakwera and estranged Vice President Saulos Chilima.

Mutharika, president since 2014, won the election with a 38.57% share of the vote, with Chakwera getting 35.41% and Chilima, who had formed his own party, with 20.24%.

Mutharika, a 79-year-old former law professor, has managed to rein in rising prices of basic goods and improve roads and other infrastructure.

However, critics accuse him of cronyism and failing to tackle graft in the southern African nation, which is frequently beset by droughts and depends heavily on foreign aid.

Reporting by Frank Phiri; Editing by Pravin Char

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