On May 20 2014, the Malawi democracy clocks twenty (20) years of age since the transition from one party state to multiparty democracy. On 14 June 1994, Malawians overwhelmingly chose a multiparty democracy under which restrictions over some human freedoms and rights were removed. A new democratic constitution was drafted guaranteeing more freedoms and human rights. It also established a governance structure consisting of three separate arms (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary) to ensure that there are checks and balance to avoid abuse of power by individuals.
To ensure that the Malawi democracy meant “government of the people, by the people and for the people”, the fundamental principles underlying the new Republican Constitution clearly stipulates that “All legal and political authority of the State derives from the people of Malawi and shall be exercised in accordance with this Constitution solely to serve and protect their interests” and that All persons responsible for the exercise of powers of State do so on trust..” (Chapter lll).
That is why the constitution provides for elections of political leaders for every five years so that citizens should always give power to a selected few to govern on their behalf as in representative democracy. Citizens are allowed to choose leaders who best represent their aspirations. May 20 tripartite elections are such an opportunity for citizens, eligible to vote, to exercise their right to choose leaders.
The Referendum and the 1994 General elections have been dubbed as the most democratic and transparent elections held so far . Through the secret ballot, Malawians chose their preferred system of government of democracy and proceeded to usher in a new government led by Dr Bakili Muluzi of the United Democratic Front (UDF). In both the 1993 Referendum and 1994 General Elections, the MCP government led by late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda respected the will and choice of the people and accepted the elections results. In both elections, Kamuzu accepted defeat even before official results were announced by an independent electoral commission. Things had change for good.
However, since the 1994 general elections, concerns and fears over electoral malpractices in form of biasness, cheating or rigging and intimidation, have been rife and refuse to die out. While most of the claims of vote rigging have not been substantiated, some cases of rigging have been backed up by evidence in the courts of law. Electoral results have been manipulated in favor of some candidates the majority of whom belong to the ruling party.
Nevertheless, some opposition candidates have also been implicated is such malpractices. This is because politicians approach elections as business which they should win at all costs. As a result, some people have lost trust in elections as they feel these are staged whose results are predetermined. Others have shouted BOMA sililuza (the governing party cannot lose elections). Where does such confidence come from? Surely it could not only emanate from the incumbency factor, but also possibilities of manipulating the results using the government machinery.
As we head towards the May 20 poll, concerns and fears over possible vote rigging have resurfaced again. The opposition is quite vocal on this. The government and electoral bodies are parrying these fears away. But Vote RIGGING is real and culprits work hard to execute plans undercover as agents. Vote rigging is the greatest enemy of democracy and must not tolerate by all means. Every vote must count and their views respected. The constitution provides for that.
In fact, there is no need for any player in the tripartite elections to plan vote rigging. Everyone who decided to contest must have understood the rules of the game as set by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and that any attempts to rig the elections must face people’s resistance and the long arm of the law. The Voters are the major stakeholder in the elections to freely choose the new crop of leaders. It is quite simple. Leave the game to voters to decide. As any form of cheating and corruption, any proved cases of vote rigging must be dealt legally or other lawful means. It is a serious crime against people’s will and democracy to rig an election
When rigging happens, it is the citizens that are short-changed and cheated. It is unfortunate that only political players stand up against vote rigging and other electoral irregularities. It must be the citizens whose vote should count and that they must prevent and deal with the malpractice.
Let MEC wield the electoral axe by enforcing the set laws and procedures. As in the football game, any player that is full of fouls must be disqualified. No politician should think of getting power through the back door. That’s criminal and the law should apply. Political candidates must face voters and campaign and there is no need to think cheating will always hand one victory. The courts must also be vigilant. We no longer need to hear “ the rigging would not affect results”.
We opted for multiparty democracy and every vote must account and be counted. For the trust to be sustained, no politician should get power from the people through corrupt means like rigging. No one should hijack the democracy once more.
Let the winner get power by fair means as prescribed by the laws of the land. Anything less is criminal.
May God bless Malawi and the New crop of leaders being voted into power on May 20.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :