Malawi’s electoral commission chief Wednesday defended the use of results sheets that had been altered with correctional fluid in last year’s disputed presidential elections.
The Constitutional Court last week annulled the May results that gave President Peter Mutharika a narrow win, citing widespread irregularities, especially the “massive” use of correction fluid on ballot sheets.
The court ordered a fresh election within 150 days and an investigation into the conduct of the electoral commission.
Appearing before a special parliamentary committee, the chairwoman of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Jane Ansah said she saw nothing wrong in her commission accepting sheets that were altered with a correction fluid known as Tippex.
She claimed the results on the tally sheets were not altered but corrected.
“There is no evidence to show that Tippex was used to favour one candidate,” she said.
The Constitutional Court also found that less than a third of the results from the more than 5,000 polling stations had been certified by the auditors by the time Ansah declared Mutharika winner of the presidential race.
Another MEC member Mary Nkosi, who appeared before the committee on Monday, admitted that the commission mishandled the contentious elections.
Nkosi claimed Ansah went behind the commissioners’ back and authorised altered result sheets.
“I did not see the justification to this. But there was an apparent rush to have the results put together and announced,” she said. “It was a big let-down”.
The southern African nation’s leader and the electoral commission have gone to court seeking to suspend the landmark court order that overturned Mutharika’s re-election.
It is the first time a presidential election has been challenged on legal grounds in Malawi since independence from Britain in 1964, and only the second African vote result to be cancelled after the 2017 Kenya presidential vote.