Malawi Law Commission has endorsed the merit of shifting to a 50-plus-one system from the current electoral system for presidential elections, the plurality-based First Past the Post (FPTP) system, that will see the country receding from the winner-takes-it-all scenario of electing the Head of State.
Since 1994 the FPTP electoral system has been used for the selection of the country’s President, members of Parliament (MPs) and ward councillors.
Under these rules, the candidate on the ballot who gets the most votes is duly elected.
But in a Report on the Review of the Electoral law to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Commission has backed the introduction of 50-plus-one system.
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 Kamanga says in the report seen by Nyasa Times that 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.
“The Commission, therefore, agreed that the 50 percent plus 1 system, with the possibility of a second round where the first rounds fails to produce a candidate that meets the required threshold would, in the circumstances, be the ideal option,” reads the report.
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.
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.
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