Malawi’s new President Lazarus Chakwera pledged to clamp down on corruption on Monday, as he delivered his inauguration speech in a scaled-down ceremony dampened by a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Malawi’s once-ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Thursday called for President Lazarus Chakwera’s election to be annulled after the country’s electoral commissioners were removed from office.

Chakwera this week rescinded Malawi’s electoral commissioners on the basis that they had been declared incompetent by the Constitutional Court.

The court had blasted the commissioners for their handling of elections that were first held in May 2019. The judges scrapped the vote and ordered a re-run, which was then won by Chakwera.

In a statement, the DPP said it “calls on the courts, when moved, to nullify the election of Dr Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice President, Dr Saulos Chilima.”

“He has ceased to be a legitimately elected president of the Republic of Malawi because the election that elected him into office was presided over by an unconstitutional body.”

The DPP is the party of former president Peter Mutharika, who was declared narrow winner in the first vote but trailed in second when the elections were run again, in June 2020.

The DPP’s statement said that by removing the commissioners from office, Chakwera had invalidated all decisions they had made in office – including certifying his victory.

University of Cape Town law professor Danwood Chirwa said that rescinding the appointments should have no adverse consequences for the 2020 elections, if done correctly.

“If it were confirmed by the high court that the rescission (done properly) is valid, this could have no impact on the elections,” he said.

After the commissioners were rescinded, the Malawi Electoral Commission announced that it lacked appointed officials enabling it to discharge its duties.

Subsequently, “the commission has henceforth no legal authority or basis to continue implementing its activities, which become suspended by operation of the law until further notice,” the commision said.

The Constitutional Court determined the 2019 elections were marred by widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid to tamper with result sheets.

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