LILONGWE (Reuters) - Malawi will go to the polls on June 23, a week earlier than initially ordered by the courts, which annulled President Peter Mutharika's narrow election victory last year due to irregularities.
The Constitutional Court ruled on Feb. 3 that a fresh presidential election be held within 150 days after citing "widespread, systematic and grave" irregularities when it annulled the vote that returned Mutharika to power.
The initial date was July 2.
But opposition members of Parliament on Tuesday passed a resolution setting the June 23 date, to the surprise of the government side which had hoped for a vote through Constitutional amendments. That vote would have delayed the setting of the new date.
"Government side wanted to use the Constitution amendment route and get their MP's vote against it. The solution was to decide by resolution to avoid another wait for a presidential assent," said Garton Kamchedzera, a constitutional law lecturer at the University of Malawi.
The announcement of the new date was received by wild celebrations from the opposition benches.
Mutharika has been forced to appoint a new chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission Justice Chifundo Kachale, a High Court judge after his predecessor Jane Ansah, a Supreme Court of Appeals judge was declared incompetent by both the Constitutional and Appeals Court.
The new chair of the electoral body has been sworn in to start work in Blantyre on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Frank Phiri; Editing by Marguerita Choy)