CHRR, CEDEP renew calls for 50+1 electoral law: Appeals for public debate

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) have renewed their call for a 50+1 electoral system to replace the existing first-past-post  which according to the rights groups has tended to legitimize “democratically illegitimate” leadership to the high office of the Presidency.

The call was made at a news conference held in Lilongwe organized by CHRR and CEDEP in partnership with other human rights defenders like Robert Mkwezalamba and Habiba Osman to track progress made by the country in the realm of human rights and good governance as part of the country’s 50th anniversary celebration.

CHRR Executive Director Timothy Mtambo said the current system has often proved to be a mockery to the very democratic principle of majority rule in view of the total votes cast and hence appealed for public debate over both the current system and the proposed 50+1 electoral system.

Mtambo speaking to a reporter
Mtambo speaking to a reporter

“What could sound as a mockery to multiparty democracy Malawians fought for and attained in 1993 is that five elections down the lane, the country is still stuck with the fast-past the post electoral system despite the unfortunate bearing the system has on the meaning of majority rule.

“The current FPTP electoral system creates problems for democratic governance because it allows for weak minority-led governments with the majority of the electorate on the losing side,” argued outspoken Mtambo.

Added CHRR boss:“With the exception of the 2009 elections, the system has repeatedly handed victory to the minority-supported candidates with all winners under the Presidential race in the 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2014 below 50%.Thus, looking ahead, we call for the immediate reform of the electoral laws, especially the eight-day rule and first-past-post system.

“Malawi needs to adopt the 50+1percent system as a matter of urgency if the next president is to have genuine trust and legitimacy of the electorate. The onus is on the current crop of parliamentarians to right this wrong for posterity’s sake. Otherwise, the current system has the potential of creating divisions, a recipe so delicate for the smooth running of the country.”

When quizzed on whether proposing for such a move just a few weeks after the elections could be deemed by some quarters as targeting certain individuals or political party, CHRR boss argued that the rights groups started advocating for such a proposal prior to the 2014 Tripartite Elections.

“In a democracy, people are always entitled to their opinions, and as a human rights defender I have the obligation to respect such. However, it must be clearly stated from the very onset that CHRR and CEDEP started to advocate for the 50+1 electoral system prior to the Tripartite elections. In fact, in our 20 months assessment of Joyce Banda administration which was published between 31st December 2013 and early January 2014 in both print and social media, the call for a 50+1 electoral system was one of the recommendations made to be effected as part of post-May 2014 agenda while targeting 2019 elections and onwards,” said Mtambo

The CHRR boss appealed for a sober national debate over the matter towards an informed decision and way forward which is in the best interest of all Malawians.

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