Malawi Law Commission adopts 50+1 electoral system — Electing a president by majority

Contestants for the 2019 general polls must brace themselves for challenging times ahead following Malawi’s Law Commission decision to adopt a fifty plus one vote law that will see the country receding from the winner-takes-it-all scenario of electing the president.

Kamanga (left) Supreme Court Jusdge chairing the Special Law Commission on electoral reforms with Minister of Justice Tembenu

Malawi, had been using the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) or winner-takes-all system to elect presidents, members of Parliament (MPs) and ward councillors.

A year-long investigation by the Special  Law Commission has resulted into the adoption of the vote law, described by Chancellor College’s media and communications expert, Jimmy Kainja, as “the biggest overhaul of the country’s electoral system.”

Nyasa Times understands that at a recent two-day multi-stakeholder conference to discuss planned electoral reforms in the country, the commission resolved to abolish the current “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) of selecting the president and adopt the majority of more than 50 percent.

The new system will mean that the winning president will have to amass at least 50+ percent threshold of the national vote.

Chairperson of the Special Law Commission Justice Anthony Kananga presented their findings to the media on Wednesday in Lilongwe and outlines six bills to Parliament for enactment which include Constitution (amendment), Electoral Commission (amendment), Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections (LGE), Assumptions of the Office of President (Transitional Arrangement) and Referendum.

He said Parliament will have to amend Section 80 (2) of the Constitution and Section 96 (5) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections (PPE) Act to provide change of the electoral system from the current simple majority to the 50 plus one percent.

Kamanga said where no such majority is obtained by any presidential candidate in the first poll, a run-off “should be held in which two presidential candidates who obtained the highest and second highest number of valid votes cast should be the only candidates.”

Catholic University of Malawi (Cunima) political scientist, Nandini Patel, said with the new system, a runoff would be made where no presidential candidate secures the threshold or a double ballot where the top two candidates contest in the second round and one who secures more votes would be declared winner.

“On the face of it, the proposal is straightforward and makes logical sense. Yet, this is complex than it appears and if adopted it would revolutionize the way local politics is done,” said Patel.

Malawi has used the FPTP system since 1994, and the situation has been that all presidents have come from the highly populated regions since they are have always been assured of electoral victory as far as the FPTP system is concerned.

“The proposed new system will help reduce the toxic politics of regionalism. It will also enhance national stability, which is the bedrock of any successful nation,” said Kainja.

But President Peter Mutharika’s special advisor, Hetherwick Ntaba, has described the new law as “unrealistic and wasteful.”

Ntaba said there is no way there could legitimacy attainment people are talking about.

“Let us talk about the costs. In reality, we are already struggling to conduct by-elections [in areas where MPs and local government councillors have died,” said Ntaba.

Out of the five general elections since the transition to multiparty democracy in 1993, three candidates have made it to State House with less than 50 percent of the popular vote.

In the first post-independence multiparty elections in 1994, Bakili Muluzi won the presidency with 47 percent although later, in his second term, won with 52 percent in 1999.

In 2004, the late Bingu wa Mutharika made it with 36 percent, but his approval rating surged to 66 percent five years later in 2009. His younger brother, Peter, in 2014 secured the presidency with about 36 percent of the votes cast.

Barely two months after Mutharika’s election in 2014, several quarters especially northerners – who come from the least populated region in the country – started lodging serious calls for a federal system of government to do away with the present unitary system.

Meanwhile, the legislation on transition provides smooth handover of  power an inauguration of the President-elect where a President would be swron-in  after 30 days from the date of the announcement of results.

It would regulate transition from one administration to another following the general elections where the Assumption of Office of President Bill would provide for the establishment of a transition team and functions of the team.

The Special Law Commission also recommend that minimum qualifications for presidential candidate and running mate should be a first degree or its equivalent from a recognised or accredited institution . Currently the law does not provide for minimum qualifications.

Candidates for Member of Parliament and Councillor position should be holders of Malawi School Certificate of Education and be able to speak and read English well enough to take part in proceedings in parliamentary and council meetings respectively.

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DPP 2019 boma with 50+1 or not!

True patriot
This sounds like the solution to our current political problems. I however, have strong reservations that this is necessarily the most ideal system in our case. The 50+1 percent works well where there are no tribal demarcations and where literacy levels are very high, such as in the US or UK. We know that in Malawi we don’t vote on policies but along tribal lines. It is no secret that the South would always vote for either DPP or UDF (assuming it seriously wanted to participate in presidential elections). The Central region will always align itself to MCP. The Northerners… Read more »

Good news for our democracy. For the first time we shall have a president mandated by the majority. Ndithu wina adzalira chakwawo.

chaiwone wawo

Ntaba you don’t fund elections so shut up on the costs


It is more likely that evrery election there will be a rerun

Don’t copy things from others this system will not help Malawians its only those who work in electro commission they will get good moneys because if government looses first they will win on rerun they will do what ever it can take them there don’t forget we are the poorest people on earth so who doesn’t want money . For example if it had been kuti Ku Gambia kunali rerun yaya Jammy lero ali President.Solution yathu kuno is to have ma election Ku opposition kuti tipedze chipani chimodzi chodzayima pa general election ndi boma nothing else then you will see… Read more »

We needed this law long ago. Can not wait to have it passed the soonest. Malawi will mature democratically. BRAVO!!

We know what these means right? For those of you who don’t in the age of prophets I give you a prophecy. Mark my words. MCP is winning the next election according to my calculations (Prophecy). But here is the thing I’ll explain how I came to that conclusion very easy Independence government MCP 1965-1993 Then UDF in tripary era 1994-2004 + 2004 – 2005 Bingu under UDF DPP Bingu from 2005 -2012 the booming period till shit ht the oil tank Then PP Joyce Banda from 2012 -2014 Now this two last periods are critical we had a flag… Read more »
The Partriot

Sweet news indeed! We are tired of Presidents of one tribe, by one tribe and for one tribe! Eince no tribe in Malawi can amass 50% of the vote , common sense will dictate that the Presidential candidayes will have to form alliances with other tribes to rule. Expensive? Dr Ntaba if you think democracy is expensive try anarchy!!

Che Wanimiliyoni

Tiyeni nazoni tiwone ngati wina sadzalira mayiwawaye. 50+1 will just fuel regionalism and federation calls since in the first 5 to 10 elections the Centre and North will always gang up against the South as they claim the South is more developed and has produced more presidents and I can forsee justified violent reaction from the Southerners. To me the best was the parliamentary proportional represantation as done in South Africa since MPs from one party are evenly spread across the country and those MPs will have the backing of their subjects in choosing the presidents.

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