Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Bright Msaka has said it is the southern African regional consensus that peace, stability and prosperity can only be guaranteed through the democratic route warning hat candidates who make it fashionable to take electoral issues to court may lose the support of the people.
Msaka was speaking on Monday at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre at the official opening of the 21st Annual Electoral Commissioners Forum for the Southern African Development Community (ECF Sadc) conference.
He said the job of our election bodies is a crucial one but also a “thankless job”.
Said Msaka: “Every electoral candidate wants to win. Every electoral candidate believes they will win. And we, the people of SADC sometimes compound this problem with our politeness. We are unable to tell our candidates in their face that they do not stand a chance.”
He continued: “ If people do not attend their rally, we attribute this to various reasons: a funeral in the next village, an inoculation campaign taking place on the same day, or even a football match between Manchester United and Liverpool. We never tell them the truth that their political message does not have popular appeal.
“When the opposition candidate draws large crowds, we assure our candidate that the people are just going there to ‘eat’ his money, or to receive the campaign materials, but at heart the people will vote for our candidate. After all, it is a secret ballot, we assure our candidate. “
Msaka said most of the candidates challenge the results in court because perhaps it is softer landing to admit that they lost the case in court, than to concede poll defeat.
He said the act could minimise their chances of winning future elections.
“This, I believe, is a passing phase. Our region is rapidly changing. A time will soon come when it will no longer be fashionable to challenge clear and obvious election results.
“A time is soon coming when challenging clear and obvious results will be the recipe for losing voter confidence. A time is soon coming when challenging clear and obvious results will be the surest way to lose the next 10 election.
“A time is soon coming when the voters will expect candidates to respect the voters’ verdict more than the verdict of any other entity,” said Msaka.
The Justice Ministers’ remarks come at a time when Malawi opposition presidential hopefuls Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Saulos Chilima of UTM Party are challenging the results of the May 21 2019 presidential elections in court.
Some parliamentary candidates are also challenging results of the May polls in court with 28 pending petitions in court on parliamentary and local government polls.
In his speech, Msaka said like democracy itself, election management is a journey of progress and must be an endless effort towards improvement.
“The automobile of today looks nowhere near the original product. We too must continually improve our election management systems and processes, and strive towards the ideal. I liken this process of improvement to a sea voyage towards the Island of Utopia.
“After every 11 election, we must see in the horizon a better and more beautiful island, a better and more improved election system. And we must immediately set sail towards that island,” he said.
Msaka said improvements in election management will be the realization of the endless Utopias.
“All countries of the world are continually improving their democracies, and the way they govern themselves. We must improve our electoral systems in keeping with the pace of democratic progress.
“Mwalimu Julius Nyerere used to contend, and quite rightly so, that democracies of the world do not look the same. German democracy is different from British democracy, which is different from American democracy, which is different from Indian 12 democracy, which is different from Tanzanian democracy. They are all different. But they are all democracies. He used to admonish us against the temptation of copying other democracies to become our own,” he said.
He advised against cloning democracy, saying the electoral systems in SADC, should fashion its electoral systems in accordance with the uniqueness of its democracies and peculiar provisions of their Constitutions and electoral laws.
“Like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, I implore you not to copy other electoral systems without justification. To paraphrase Nyerere, please do not clone your electoral systems like Dolly the Sheep,” said Msaka.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :