Malawi’s Constitutional Court is expected to announce whether the presidential election won by incumbent Peter Mutharika in May 2019 will be annulled or validated.
The long-awaited ruling after months of violent protests in the small southern African country is expected on Monday.
During the occasion, the five judges of the court in Lilongwe, which will be placed under high protection, will rule on the regularity of the presidential election.
Only 159,000 votes separate the winner Peter Mutharika, in power since 2014, from Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
The opposition has repeatedly accused the regime of manipulating the results of the presidential election through the use of blank spaces. The winning side fiercely denies any fraud.
Shortly after the election, however, the head of the European Union observers, Mark Stephens, acknowledged that “many mistakes were made during the count”.
This is the first time since Malawi’s independence in 1964 that the results of a presidential election have been challenged in court. And the implications of the court’s ruling are potentially explosive.
If it overturns the presidential results, new elections will have to be held within 60 days, unless either side appeals.
The country is now eagerly awaiting the ruling of the Constitutional Court, especially as Malawi has seen many demonstrations turned violent in recent months, as opposition protesters clashed with security forces.
For fear of incidents on Monday, schools and businesses have decided to keep their doors closed on the day of the ruling.
While the two main opponents, Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima, have called on their supporters to show restraint, the government also urged “all political parties to respect the rule of law and justice, warning that “the destruction of the country was counterproductive.”