Malawi’s High Court on Sunday postponed indefinitely the release of final results from last week’s presidential vote, adding to the electoral chaos and tension in the poor southern African country.
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party had on Saturday obtained an injunction from the court barring the electoral commission from releasing the results and ordering a recount from some polling districts due to alleged vote-rigging.
On Sunday, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) went to the same court asking it to lift the order that blocked it from announcing the winner of the May 21 vote.
But the High Court reserved its judgement until an unspecified date.
“The court has said they will make a decision within a reasonable time but they have not said when that will be,” MEC lawyer David Banda said.
“Now our hands are tied until the court makes a decision,” he said after the court hearing in the administrative capital Lilongwe.
In the commercial hub of Blantyre, the commission’s chair Jane Ansah appealed for “peace, calmness and… patience”.
By law the results should be announced by next Wednesday.
“Elections can make or break a nation; the commission would not want to be part of breaking this nation. We want to give the nation credible (information),” said Ansah.
“This is now out of our hands. We will wait for the direction of the court.”
The MCP turned to the courts because of what spokesman Eisenhower Mkaka described as “very glaring irregularities” on results sheets turned in from polling stations.
In the closely-fought race, President Peter Mutharika was battling to hold off two serious rivals after a campaign that focused on corruption allegations and economic development.
Results from the legislative election, which are not being disputed, showed that none of the parties got a majority in the 193-seat assembly.
Mutharika’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won 62 seats while the largest opposition MCP won 55.
The United Democratic Front led by Atupele Muluzi, the son of former president Bakili Muluzi, won 10 seats and Vice President Saulos Chilima’s United Transformation Movement (UTM) managed only four seats.
The remaining seats went to independent candidates and two other smaller parties.