Fear of losing 2019 election holds  nation to ransom: The case of 50+1 electoral system in Malawi

The year 2017 will live to be remembered in the history of Malawi as a period when democratic governance was put to a litmus test particularly when dealing with electoral governance reforms. Following the release of a Report of the Law Commission on the Review of Electoral Laws by a Special Law Commission in April 2017, the general public waited with bated breath the deliberations and subsequent enactment of those electoral reforms requiring legislation by Parliament in readiness of 2019 Tripartite elections.

Mutharika and Chakwera: 2019 elections two top contenders

It is important to underscore the fact that while Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) was instrumental in the establishment of a Taskforce mandated to coordinate suggestions on electoral reforms before submitting its Reports to the Law Commission in January 2016 for consideration, MESN did not provide the much needed leadership to the Civil Society after the Law Commission report was released in spearheading advocacy and awareness of the proposed electoral reforms, especially those that required legislation. Instead, it was the Malawi’s Public Affairs Committee (PAC)and few Civil Society Organizations like Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Centre for Development of People, and Youth and Society (YAS) who filled the vacuum created by MESN by impressing upon government to table the proposed electoral reforms in Parliament. During the same period government through both the leader of the House and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs committed itself to tabling the electoral reforms Bill during Parliament’s November sitting.

However, two weeks before Parliament’s November meeting, the media reported that the electoral reforms Bills were missing on the list of Bills to be tabled during the sitting. Upon learning of this development,CHRR and Cedep issued a joint statement demanding MPs to boycott Parliament if the Electoral Reforms were not part of the agenda, a call which was welcomed by the Leader of Opposition Dr. Lazarus Chakwera. Chakwera threatened to lead the Opposition in boycotting Parliament if the electoral reforms Bills were not tabled.  PAC executive members marched to Parliament to submit a petition for government to table the Bills within 7 days, and after the demands were not met, PAC called for a nationwide march to force government table these Bills. The march was widely supported by PAC’s member religious mother bodies (with the exception of Muslim Association of Malawi) and individual churches.

For example the following churches and religious mother bodies released “epistles” to their congregations declaring their support for PAC’s nationwide march and encouraging their members to patronize the same in large numbers: Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM), CCAP Nkhoma and Blantyre Synod, Anglican Northern Diocese, CCAP General Assembly, Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), and Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM). During the same period government machinery assembled a team of traditional leaders, religious leaders, and CSOs to counter PAC’s calls for government to honour its pledge. These were paraded on the tax-payer funded public broadcaster MBC to unleash attacks on PAC.

However, despite the growing public momentum in support of PAC’s nationwide march,  PAC called off the march at the eleventh hour – certainly, to the dismay of the general public—on the grounds that government had cooperated to its demands by tabling the electoral reforms Bills including the much-talked 50%+1 related electoral Bill – despite the adulterations made. But when these Bills were brought to Parliament, they were all rejected with the exception of the referendum Bill – whose initial clauses which empower citizens to call for a referendum were ironically removed leaving the President as the sole authority to call for a referendum. The rest is history.

However, what is of paramount importance to this article is to demonstrate how politics can stand as a stumbling block to the realization of reforms that are in the public interest and also those that strengthen democracy and its subsequent core value of legitimacy to govern.  The article particularly uses the case of the proposed 50%+1 electoral system in Malawi – one of the suggested electoral reforms by the Special Law Commission- which was rejected by Parliament in December 2017 purely on political grounds.

Using political economy analysis framework and transformational leadership versus transactional leadership models, the article argues that the fear of losing the2019 Tripartite elections – if the 50%+1 electoral system is in place- on the part of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was the ultimate reason behind the “systematic” rejection – or call it resistance to electoral reforms- of the 50%+1 electoral system (and of course other related electoral reforms) despite the proposed system having many positives in strengthening  our democracy. This development has in the end yielded in holding the nation to ransom. But before discussing this, the article will present a background to and justification to the 50%+1 electoral system for electing the President.

2.0. A backgroundto  50+1  Presidential electoral system reform:

The quest for a 50%+1 electoral system for electing the President is not new in Malawi. It’s something that can be traced to as far as 2004. The proposal emerged during a Law Commission’s led Constitutional review process which sprang between 2004 to 2007 with the climax being the Constitutional Review Conference in 2006. Eventually, the 50%+1 electoral system for electing the President formed part of the 2007’s Law Commission Report on the Review of the Constitution’s recommendations. In February 2014, a local human rights organization Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in their “20 months assessment of Joyce Banda’s rule” report recommended to government and Parliament to adopt the 50%+1 electoral system as proposed by the 2007 Law Commission on Review of the Constitution.

However, as rightly put in the 2017’s Report of the Law Commission on review of electoral laws that the “renewed impetus for the review of electoral laws” resurfaced following challenges that characterized the 2014 Tripartite elections.   Dr. Augustine Magolowondo in his post-2014 Tripartite elections article “Where does Malawi go from here?” argued that the results of the 2014 elections and the challenges that surfaced further confirmed that electoral reforms in Malawi were long overdue, and that the winner-take-all (simple majority) system that Malawi uses when electing the President had clearly demonstrated its inadequacies.

It has, however, been argued that if it was not for the fact that Malawians had chosen peace and stability in the face of problematic elections [including the election of Presidents with a minority vote- below 50% of the total vote], Malawi would have resorted to violence, and even civil war in extreme cases. This is ably presented by Dr. Boniface Dulani, a renowned University of Malawi political scientist and Afro barometer researcher, as follows: “I think Malawians want stability now – there was a lot of tension while we waited for the results. There is still going to be a lot of doubts about the credibility of Mutharika’s victory and that might have an impact on his overall legitimacy as a leader” (Dulani as quoted by Financial Times of UK, published in Nyasa Times June 1 2014).

Yet, to suggest that the calmness following these electoral processes means that Malawians have been all along been satisfied with the outcome of the election let alone the existing electoral system is nothing but a fallacy of highest degree. The post-election peace which we have had in the face of problematic elections (and electoral system that has often favoured the creation of a minority government) has been at the mercy of Malawians (and above all God) and hence shouldn’t be taken for granted. It was therefore not surprising that immediately after the 2014 Tripartite elections a national taskforce – with representation from public sectors, civil society and development partners – was constituted to conduct regional and nationwide consultations on electoral reforms as one way of addressing the challenges that had characterized the previous elections including those related to legitimacy of the elected President.

Its findings were consolidated in a report submitted to the Law Commission in January 2016.  A Special Law Commission on the Review of Electoral Laws was eventually empaneled by the government to undertake law reforms with the overall objective of development of a clear, simple, comprehensive and unified legislative framework on elections that would be in line with the dictates of the Constitution and applicable international law; and principles of inclusion and democratic governance.

The Special Law Commission concluded its work and submitted its Report (which also carried six electoral reforms Bill) to Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in April 2017. Amongst the key issues this Law Commission proposed was the 50%+1 electoral system for the President – echoing the 2007 Report of the Law Commission on the Review of the Constitution.  The Commission agreed that “the 50%+1 system, with the possibility of a second round where the first round fails to produce a candidate that meets the required threshold would, in the circumstances, be the ideal option as it appeared to address the concerns and reservations raised by Commissioners.

The Commission, therefore, resolved that the second round should take place within 30 days from the date of the declaration of the results of the first round. The Commission resolved further that all its recommendations in relation to the regulation of events after the declaration of results applicable to the first round should apply to events subsequent to the declaration of the results of the second round, including the period within which the dispute in relation to the second round should be resolved (that is to say 30 days)”.

In this regard, the Law Commission reaffirmed its resolution to adopt a 50+1% electoral system by recommending that Section 80(2) of the Constitution be amended to read as follows:

“(2) The President shall be elected by a majority of more than 50% of the valid votes cast through direct, universal and equal suffrage and, where such majority is not obtained by any presidential candidate in the first poll, a second poll shall be held within thirty (30) days after the declaration of the results in which the two (2) presidential candidates who obtained the highest and second highest number of valid votes case in the first poll shall be the only candidates”

 

3.0. A justification of 50%+1 Presidential Electoral System

The Special Law Commission on the Review of Electoral Laws also considered the concerns revolving around the “adequacy, effectiveness and propriety of the current ‘simple majority’ or ‘first past the post’ electoral system as a means for electing the President in addressing issues of representation and acceptability (or legitimacy), especially in situations where the winning candidate gets less than 50% of the vote. However, as regards to the issue of Parliamentary elections the pressing concerns revolved around the consideration“of the adequacy, effectiveness and propriety of ‘simple majority’ or ‘first past the post’ electoral systems in addressing issues of: political recognition and visibility of women in elected positions; equitable (re)distribution of seats; participation; acceptability or legitimacy of the electoral process; survival of political parties and independent candidates; and the balance of power and the dynamics of power among political parties”.

The issue of 50%+1 electoral system as being extended to Members of Parliament let alone councilors was never raised in the nationwide consultations the Commission [both the 2016/2017 Special Law Commission on review of electoral laws and the 2006/7 Special Law Commission on the Review of the Constitution] or the Taskforce conducted as one of the areas requiring reform of the current system. In other words, it can be said that this was and is not an issue in as far as the weaknesses of the current “simple majority” system is concerned. Otherwise, if it was really an issue to the general public, certainly it would have come out in the regional and nationwide consultations (and consultation reports) which the Law Commission and the Taskforce  conducted the reports by the Law Commission conducted as far as 2004 when the proposal of 50% plus one for electing the President first gained ground. I thought it was important to provide this contextual background from the very onset in view of the recent government’s political maneuver (as it will be explained in detail later in this article) during the November 2017 Parliament sitting to extend 50%+1 electoral system to MPs and Councilors as an indirect way of blocking the 50%+1 electoral system for the Presidency which it had vowed to fight full throttle.

Back to the argument at hand: why 50%+1 electoral system for electing the President? The Law Commission’s report states that the current Simple Majority System is no longer relevant for Malawi considering the fact it has failed to deal with the challenge of regional parties; the representation of women in elected office; and the potential to produce winning candidates that do not have the support of the majority of the people who voted. According to the Report, the weakness of the system originates from its simplicity in determining the winning candidate as the candidate with the highest percentage of the votes cast wins even if such percentage is less than 50% of the vote. As such the system fails to consolidate the legitimacy of the winning candidate.

However, the Law Commission also took some time to consider and review the counterarguments to the proposed 50%+1 electoral system which included: that this proposed system, just like the current system, was boundto fail considering the Malawi’s social-political context characterized by lack of integrity, professionalism and adherence to the principles of democracy; the growing illiteracy levels that would make it difficult for ordinary Malawians to understand the new system; the high economic costs associated with 2 rounds; and the assertion that legitimacy cannot be reduced to numbers.

According to the Law Commission’s Report, “while it was indeed true that legitimacy is not reducible to numbers, numbers remained an essential aspect of legitimacy. Having this in mind, therefore, the adoption of a system that requires a more convincing number in relation the threshold would add some value to the legitimacy of a winning candidate. Further, the pursuit of quality democratic governance and Government could not be watered down because of concerns of cost. The fact that a desirable electoral system is costly to implement should, therefore, not limit the possibilities available for the consideration of the Commission. On the issue of the complexity of the other systems and the illiteracy levels, it was argued that just as with anything new, a different electoral system would face some challenges but nothing that could not be overcome through civic education, experience and familiarity in the long run.”

In addition, the Commission indicated that the issue of high economic costs associated with a 2 rounds race – in the event that the first round does not achieve the required 50%+1 threshold – can also be addressed by good planning whereby elections are not perceived as an event but rather a process. In this regard, the Commission proposed the creation of a special Elections Management Fund where all financial resources pertaining to the elections would be channeled to, and that every financial year government should allocate financial resources to the elections.

All this coupled with public financial prudence and demonstrating political will to fight corruption and looting of public resources, government can save and reserve a lot of financial resources to support its own elections including a 2 round race. Moreover, while it is desirable in the long-term to start finding avenues of fully funding our own elections [with some suggestions already indicated above], in the short term [particularly as regards to 2019 Tripartite elections] no donors or development partners have expressed concern over the high economic costs associated with the proposed 50%+1 electoral system for the President. While the development partners have publicly showed no position on the 50%+1 electoral system, they have on several occasions indicated that they would welcome and support any electoral process or system that strengthens democracy and legitimacy, and that which is decided, owned and accepted by Malawians themselves.

It is in this regard that It can be argued – considering that all our previous elections and the forthcoming 2019 Tripartite elections have been and will be largely funded by the donors – that if the 50%+1 electoral system strengthens democracy and legitimacy and that it’s a product of the will of the people then certainly the development partners will at least in the short term support the system as they have always done with the simple majority system. After all, it is not always guaranteed that once the system comes into force there shall be 2 rounds. There will be moments where the 50%+1 threshold will be achieved in the first round – just as it was the case in the 2009 elections in Malawi.

Equally important is the fact that the introduction of the proposed 50%+1 electoral system would ensure that competing Presidential candidates appeal to the whole nation –rather than solely focusing on particular region where their party boasts of political dominance- in their campaign, manifestoes, and also policies (when elected) in order to achieve the required majority 50%+1 threshold.Such a system would ensure the entrenchment of democracy and partly help in addressing the problem of regional politics that have for long defined Malawian politics. It would therefore help in ensuring the formation of governments widely accepted by the populace. Indirectly, the 50%+1 electoral system would partly help in addressing the problem of the perceived unequitable distribution of resources or development across the 3 regions whereby one region has been seen to benefit more at the expense of other regions simply because the President hails from that region – hence practising politics of regionalism and nepotism in planning and executing development.

These perceptions have often led to calls for federalism –system of government- and in some extreme cases, calls for secession by those regions that feel ignored in development. However, instead of calling for federalism or secession the 50%+1 electoral system attempts to address this problem of unequitable distribution of development by forcing presidential candidates to convince all regions with proposed policies or manifestoes that shall promote equitable distribution of development or resources. As such it minimises instances where Presidential candidates take particular regions for granted as they are forced to appreciate the economic and social needs of those regions and eventually come up with mechanisms of addressing them so that they win political support from the regions hence strengthening their chances to attain the 50%+1 threshold.

For the voters, the 50%+1 if fully embraced and accepted in the short and long term, it can also inculcate in them the sense of limiting their optional choices in 2 top competing Presidential Candidates –especially in an election where it is clear from the very onset that the election is between notable 2 Presidential Candidates like the 2014 and 2019 Tripartite elections where it was and is clear that the race was and is between Chakwera and Mutharika- to avoid getting into the second round.  As a result, there can be a reduction in “wastage” votes or “split” votes cast for candidates that have no chance of winning an election as the 50%+1 threshold is already achieved in the first round. This may also ensure that voters – in this case those voters whose Presidential candidate does not stand a chance of winning an election – have a chance and space in deciding which of the two topcompeting Presidential candidates should their political party consider entering into an “electoral coalition” with.

Consequently, those voters can influence their political party not to field a candidate in that particular election but rather support the one they have entered into “electoral coalition” with. However, on the parliamentary race these voters can vote for their political party candidates to ensure that their political party is adequately represented in Parliament. While the most likelihood of such occurrence (coalitions) of this may be in the second round where no Presidential candidate achieves the required 50%+1 electoral system, this can also be done in the very first round [hence avoiding the second round] of the Presidential race particularly in a context of a much-sensitized citizenry on the merits of the 50%+1 electoral system.

 

4.0. It’s all about the fear of losing the 2019 Tripartite elections, nothing about “regime change” antics

Despite committing itself to tabling the electoral reforms Bills in Parliament during the 2017 November Parliament sitting, the DPP led government fought tooth and nail the same proposed reforms which were a product of its own instituted Special Law Commission on the review of electoral laws. As earlier indicated, the DPP led government mobilized chiefs, religious leaders, “mercenary” civil society actors, its own Parliamentarians and the majority of the opposition Peoples Party (PP) Parliamentarians and the United Democratic Front (UDF) to fight the electoral reforms Bills campaign spearheaded by the influential quasi-religious body Public Affairs Committee (PAC). Amongst the key messages of resistance to the proposed electoral reforms particularly the 50%+1 electoral system included: government was ambushed by PAC  to table the electoral reforms Bills; the 50%+1 electoral system for the President is costly for a Malawi’s ailing economy; the majority of Malawians were not consulted on the electoral reforms Bills including 50%+1 hence there is wide public knowledge gap; and that dialogue –rather than PAC’s organized demonstrations- was the way to go on the matter.

And interestingly, after PAC had postponed the much publicized 13th December 2017 nationwide march and government (and its UDF and PP political allies in Parliament) shot down its own prepared diluted electoral reform Bills, Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika also took to the public forum to accuse the opposition leader and MCP’s President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera of being behind the PAC-led electoral reforms campaign in order to bring down his government by 31st December 2017. According to Mutharika who is also DPP President, the whole 50%+1 electoral reform campaign including the planned 13th December 2017 demonstrations spearheaded by PAC was not about the said reforms but rather aimed at regime change.

While many stakeholders have faulted Mutharika for uttering such remarks premised on the grounds that they are based on misguided intelligence and still others holding that such regime change fears were behind the DPP’s government sudden change of attitude towards the electoral reforms, I strongly hold this had nothing to do with either of the two factors. The fear of losing the 2019 Tripartite elections was the real issue behind Mutharika and his government’s resistance and subsequent rejection of the electoral reforms Bills. While it is a fact that Mutharika is always annoyed and terrified at the news of any planned public demonstrations as he sees it as a conducive platform where the citizens can express their frustrations on the ailing economy and state of governance, the regime change fears could only play second fiddle to the fear of losing an election once the 50%+1 electoral system is adopted.

If the fear of losing an election was not an issue but rather the regime change, Mutharika and his government would have tabled and supported the “undiluted” electoral reforms Bills as prepared by the Law Commission before the National Assembly. In fact, Mutharika would have challenged PAC to come forward and justify why they were proceeding with the demonstrations when his government had already tabled and passed some of the Bills including the 50%+1 electoral system. This would have easily averted any so-called regime change plan as people would not see merit in supporting PAC’s reform cause through the demonstrations. If any PAC’s action to continue with the demonstrations, in this regard, would be seen in the public eye that it was indeed in pursuit of another selfish agenda as intimated by Mutharika.

However, this did not happen. Even in the absence of tabling “original” Bills as prepared by the Law Commission and instead tabling “diluted” Bills which in their very design were bound to be rejected and in some cases create confusion on the part of legislators, the Public Affairs Committee postponed the nationwide march on electoral reforms on the grounds that government had started tabling the electoral reforms Bills [whether diluted or not]. Now, If PAC was really serious about regime change as intimated by Mutharika then postponement of the march was never going to be a viable option considering the fact that it still had a clout to proceed with the demonstrations on the grounds that what was presented in Parliament were diluted Bills. But they postponed the march based on trust that MPs would do make the required amendments and support the electoral Bills.

If there was any sensible accusation levelled against PAC in these circumstances then it would not have been about PAC spearheading regime change but rather that they postponed the demonstrations –contrary to the public expectations- at a time when it was clear that government had not shown any serious commitment to the electoral reforms Bill as illustrated by the circulation and tabling of adulterated electoral reforms Bill.

In addition, if PAC’s ultimate agenda was regime change through the nationwide demonstrations as intimated by Mutharika, then why did Mutharika sanction the Cabinet to proceed with the tabling of adulterated electoral reforms Bill when PAC had already called off the so-called “regime change”demonstrations? Who is fooling who here?

Without beating about the bush, the recent Mutharika’s regime change ranting was only aimed at diverting the public from the real issue –that is,his fear of losing the 2019 Tripartite election if the 50%+1 electoral system is adopted- that made his government develop cold feet against the electoral reforms agenda despite empaneling the Special Commission to do the job. It is a fact that while Mutharika and the DPP regime gurus may feel good to have duped PAC from postponing their much feared and publicized nationwide demonstrations, the whole saga has to a greater extent raised more integrity and governance questions or issues on the part of Mutharika and the DPP government.

For example, DPP’s government duping of PAC on electoral reform governance has only managed to confirm the existing perception that the DPP government is crooked and has serious integrity concerns. The questions the public might be asking is: if the DPP government is able to dupe the public on such a serious matter of public interest like electoral reforms, is it not wrong to conclude that the style of their governance is embedded on pursuing their selfish political interests at the expense of that of the public? By resisting the Assumption of Office (or Transition of Office) Bill which proposes a 30 days period before a President can be sworn in, does this not magnify the existing perception that perhaps something fishy characterizes our elections to the extent that the President and his government are afraid to allow such a period to avoid the revelation of the perceived hidden schemes? In other words, will the DPP government now have the moral mandate to reject those accusations that it rigs elections hence its resistance to having a longer period of transition before the President can be sworn in? As regards to the 50%+1 electoral system, it is a fact that the DPP government have failed to come up with valid arguments to discredit the proposed system which seems to enjoy public’s acceptance, and in turn realizing that they owe the public an explanation on why they rejected the 50%+1 electoral system and other electoral reforms, President Mutharika and his lieutenants have decided to cook up the regime change lie so as to divert the public attention from the real issue.

As ably argued by one seasoned Malawi columnist George Kasakula, Mutharika and DPP government thrives on politics of tribalism, nepotism and regionalism, as such any proposed system that endevours to challenge the status quo will face serious resistance from the DPP. The proposed 50%+1 electoral system is no exception. Considering the fact that the Mutharika’s government has invested a lot in regionalism, tribalism and nepotism in order to garner a minority vote which is good enough to win an election, the suggestion of the 50%+1 electoral system is bad news to the DPP government as this means that they will need to stretch up to convince other regions and tribes whom the party has for quite a long time taken them for granted to vote for it.

All this coupled by the recent Afrobarometer study findings which indicated that MCP may have an upper hand in the next 2019 Tripartite elections and the recent by-elections where the party fared miserably including in the Lower Shire, Mutharika  has realized that convincing the whole nation to vote for him may be a daunting task, and instead he has resolved to maintaining the status quo whereby, just like in 2014, he can take advantage of the chaos that characterizes our elections due to Malawi’s weak legal and institutional framework in order to retain to power. Motivated by such nepotistic and regionalism consciences, Mutharika and his DPP government are not even convinced that co-opting Southern Region based UDF and PP can guarantee them a 50%+1 threshold in the event that the proposed system is adopted but they feel with the current simple majority system they can be able to pull up enough votes to enable them win an election.

Besides, Mutharika’s dilemma to choose between maintaining Saulos Chilima as running mate or UDF’s Atupele Muluzi to consolidate the Eastern Region vote is also partly making it difficult for Mutharika to opt for the 50%+1 electoral system. All this coupled by the worsening economic and state of governance in the country, Mutharika has no choice but to bank his hopes on regionalism, and tribalism as the only way to guarantee him his retention to office hence his candid vow to fight the reforms – even if it means holding the whole nation to ransom. This is the reason why after resisting the 50%+1 electoral system for electing the President based on high economic costs associated with running a 2 round race, the Mutharika’s regime can come up with a 50%+1 electoral Bill that extends to MPs and Councillors. So ironical! Who is fooling who?

4.0. Way forward and Conclusion

It can also be said beyond reasonable doubt that our continued failure to adopt the 50%+1 electoral system since the Law Commission on the Review of the Constitution recommended for it in 2007 is largely because of lack of transformational leadership in both the executive and legislative arms of government. A transformational leader is a kind of leadership that is not afraid to burn his or her fingers when spearheading economic, social, political or cultural reforms. While on one hand a transactional leader essentially operates within the status quo and does not attempt to change it because of self-political interests or to reward patronage, clientelism, regionalism or tribalism, on the other hand transformational leadership brings about fundamental change in the political, social and economic realm of society by often destroying the old way of doing things and making away for a new one.

Transformation leaders emphasize a collective vision and earn respect and trust from their subjects or followers; are inspirational to their followers or subjects as they motivate them to achieve the best; are able to challenge the status quo towards real change. It is only through transformational leaders in both the Parliament and the Executive that the good proposed electoral reforms like the 50%+1 electoral system can become a reality.

Sadly, it is an established fact that Malawi since 1994 has thrived on transactional leadership rather than transformational leadership. Acquiring, consolidating and retention of political power with the objective of self-enrichment through dubious means at the expense of a heavily taxed poor Malawian seems to have been the sole drive and motivation for political leadership in Malawi.  Political leadership in Malawi is far from being described as “transformative” leadership as its motivation is largely based on “reinforcing a government that essentially functions as a transfer pump of resources by political leaders to their political cronies in return for their political support”.

Premised on this lack of transformation leadership that any attempt to introduce electoral reforms – like the 50%+1 electoral system- that challenges the status quo has all along been rejected by those in power purely based on political grounds – the fears that the electoral reforms may reduce their chances in winning an election. The recent events (November to December 2017 Parliamentary sitting) that characterized the 50%+1 electoral system and other electoral reforms as discussed above clearly attests to this.

It is in this regard that President Peter Mutharika must stop creating the impression (as he has done recently) that his government (despite making a series of pledges to Malawians to table and support the reforms in June 2017) resisted the 50%+1 electoral reform was because there was a hidden political hand pushing for regime change under the guise of PAC’s planned nationwide demonstrations. Malawians are not fools to believe this lie. It is clear that all these are scapegoat attempts by Mutharika and his government to spruce up their tainted image following their duping of the clergy and the general public on the electoral reforms.

However, Malawians now know – from the December 2017 experience- that the fear of losing the 2019 Tripartite elections was behind Mutharika and his government’s resistance of the 50%+1 electoral system and other electoral reforms proposals, and that Mutharika has demonstrated to be a transactional leader rather than a transformational leader.  It is only through transformational leaders in both the Parliament and the Executive that the good proposed electoral reforms like the 50%+1 electoral system can become a reality.

Perhaps its indeed time for all Malawians of goodwill to – instead of just allowing a few “political individuals” intoxicated with power to hold the whole nation to ransom on important matters of public interest like electoral reforms- reclaim their destiny by echoing PAC’s calls for transformational leadership in all spheres of political life as the struggle for 50%+1 electoral system for electing the President and other electoral reforms proposals continue in the 2018.

  • Makhumbo R. Munthali is a final year Masters student in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies (PAS) at University of Malawi, Chancellor College.  Feedback: [email protected].
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Pension Nenereko
Guest
It is interesting that others do not see the importance of 50+1 in bringing people together. The first-past-the post system as we have seen in Malawi has failed miserably. We cannot blame the law that allows minority leadership. Unfortunately, the laws are designed under assumption that a human person is a reasonable creature who would understand that when you are in power YOU MUST NOT USE IT to oppress others in the manner things are happening in Malawi such as rampant nepotism, others being above the law etc. This suggests that instead of working for the benefit of the whole… Read more »
Bwande
Guest

Again, another defective argument. The First-Past-The Post system also brings people together because a president who has won with a minority votes (and MPs) always has to lure coalition partners, well, without us having to go again to vote pretending to make another choice to give the president a strong mandate. It’s simply ridiculous! Argument supporting 50+1 are very shallow and only make sense in theoretical terms (or academic terms).

Bwande
Guest
Another flawed argument about 50+1 defined by an obsession with the abstract notion that the system will give more legitimacy to the president. It will not. Because who ever wants to win as president will create an alliance or alliances with others in order to get 50+1. I agree with Mapwiya there is no correlation between legitimacy and economic development at all. The current crop of our politicians (ruling and opposition) and technocrats is very poor without sound ideas and plans. Besides, Liberia is a textbook case of how flawed 50+1 is because there was very low turn-out. In other… Read more »
Mapwiya
Guest
The whole argument is flawed. It simply justifies why we don’t need to change the law. If contending presidential candidates are legitimate they should be able to get more than 50% of the votes first time. This has happened with two of the three democratically elected presidents. The argument for 50+1 system fails to show the link or relationship between legitimacy and economic development and prosperity which is what this country needs. Legitimacy was obtained by both Muluzi and Bingu. Did obtaining of Legitimacy by these two improve anything? Any responsible government must not just carry proposals that do not… Read more »

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