Malawi Law Commission backs 50-plus-one electoral system: PAC supports electing a president by majority, with degree but Ntaba says its unrealistic

Malawi’s interfaith organization, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has welcomed the proposal by the Special Law Commission on the Review of Electoral Laws scrapping off  the current first-past-the-post simple majority and adopts a 50 per cent plus one law to ensure that the winner of presidential elections enjoyed majority support.

Law Commissioner, Gertrude Hiwa and Germany Ambassador to Malawi Mr Borsch ilongwe-(c) Abel Ikiloni,Mana.J

Kamanga (left) Supreme Court Jusdge chairing the Special Law Commission on electoral reforms with Minister of Justice Tembenu

Ntaba: Wasteful and unreaslistic

The commission, which started a two-day multi-stakeholder conference in Lilongwe,  noted  that neighbouring Zambia’s successfully adopted and implemented of 50-plus-one electoral system  which means a candidate needs to secure 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a rerun.

PAC have recognised that 50 per cent plus one rule guarantees the leader acceptable, popular, majoritarian mandate.

“The present system has failed to give us leaders with national legitimacy and the consequences are there for us to see. We need to try something else,” he said.

But President Peter Mutharika’s special adviser on domestic policy Hetherwick Ntaba described the proposal as unrealistic and wasteful.

“There is no way we can attain the legitimacy people are talking about. Let us talk about the costs. In reality, we are already struggling to conduct by-elections,” he said.

Malawi follows the British electoral system which is based on the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system. With FPTP, the one who gets the highest number of votes wins the election.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Peter Mutharika was declared the winner of Malawi’s May 20, 2014 presidential election after defeating Joyce Banda when he took 36.4 percent of the votes cast, Lazarus Chakwera of MCP garnered 27.8 percent of the vote and Banda’s 20.2 percent

President Mutharika got votes mainly from the Lomwe belt of southern Malawi while Chakwera polled more votes from the Chewa belt of central region.

Associate professor of political studies at Catholic University Nandini Patel who is in the commission  said  an electoral system reform agenda for Malawi should be based on indicators of democracy, and an assessment of the goals that can be achieved and the dangers that can be avoided.

She said simple majority voting currently being used will only apply to parliamentary elections but for a president “ the recommendation is that there should be a run-off or double ballot where the top two candidates contest in the second round and the one who secures more votes is declared winner” if there is no threshold of 50 percent votes in first round.

Patel  noted that the  need to review the electoral system was first raised in the aftermath of 1999 elections with the opposition claiming that the president-elect did not get a majority of votes cast, as it was less than 50 percent. This was one of the reasons for challenging the results in the court.

She said 50 percent plus one electoral law demand was in line with the Law Commission’s technical review of the Constitution which requires an amendment to Section 80 (2) of the Republican Constitution “because the section states that the president be elected by a majority of the electorate through universal equal suffrage.

“A majority in this sense is one who gets more votes. Simple and easy as it may sound, there is an inherent weakness in this system and that is; a candidate may get elected only with a small proportion of popular vote, which would mean winning the seat, but losing the vote.”

Chairperson of the commission Justice Anthony Kamanga, said they also settled the minimum academic qualification for future presidents to be  a degree from an accredited university.

“As a special law commission, we attached great importance to the issue of consultation to ensure public participation,” said Justice Kamanga.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said “we are assured that even though absolute perfection is difficult to achieve, we shall, nevertheless, come up with a product that represents the collective and national consensus on how we want our elections to be conducted.”

Some of the recommendations include migrating to electronic methods of conducting voter registration.


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Alinafe Phiri

Could you please add a law that, there should be age limit for those who are varying for Presidency like up to 70 yrs old.

Game Changer

Mr Ntaba, Malawi at heart first. I think you are old and dull now. If you don’t have constructive contributions to our beloved Malawi, you better be straight forward and say You don’t have any comment and spare us with your useless comments. I am sure you have outlived your usefulness. Betere kumankamba nthano kwa azukulu basi that way you will be honored.


Ntaba, this is not expensive.
So at this age u dont know what’s expensive? Let me tell u doctor.
A porous electoral law that allows shameless rigging is expensive cos it ushers into power corrupt leaders and thieves who steal far much more money from govt beyond what can be spent on a solid electoral system


Please, Dr Ntaba take easy. Legitimacy of the results and costs of conducting elections are two different issues. These need to be handled at different forums by different groups of people.

Thako la Nkhuku

Why is Trump being labeled as illegitimate while he won in the US?
The truth is that the opposition thinks it will win by combining votes after failing the first time, the way Joyce Banda tried to make Chakwera win by declaring a rerun in which she would not contest!

Yahya Jammeh
I think there is a need to review this law as I find that on the qualification of a degree from accredited university it is not properly phrased. We have a batch of people in Malawi that have honourary doctorates from accredited universities. Does it mean that they also qualify to run for presidency? It must clearly be stated that those with honorably degrees do not qualify, otherwise we shall continue to have Jim and Jack vying for presidency just because they have honourary degrees for which they bulldozed their way to get it. We want those who went to… Read more »
Kumavalo Nsamaonetsa Nyoni
Kumavalo Nsamaonetsa Nyoni
Malawi does not follow the British system. In the British system the party has a mandate to chose its leader in peace. The party has also got a mandate to remove its leader. The party first past the post forms a government, meaning the party with a majority of MPs becomes the Governing party, and its leader, chosen by the party becomes Prime Minister. That system could be the best for a poor country, because you only vote for MPs, and MPs are sponsored by the Party. The Party does not belong to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister belongs… Read more »
Kent Y.G. Mphepo

Ha! Ha! Ha! It is 50+1 and not 51%. Not so??


Kumavalo Nsamaonetsa Nyoni
Kumavalo Nsamaonetsa Nyoni

Is that all you can say?


Dr Ntaba take it easy. this is a reccomendation. DPP ministers have money. zonse zikabwelera kwa eni a Malawi pobweza ngati Hon Chaponda tikhala ndi chuma. Zikomo

Dzina Msamatchula

Bwana Tembenu,ndiye kuyankhula kwamunthu wamkulu kumeneko, osati zabwana Ntaba,akuti waste of resources, mukuopa chani? The clock is tickingd


Democracy is a wasteful system of government, not the 50 + 1 electoral system. If we want someone who truly represents all the people in Malawi, that person must win on 50 + 1 system. Politicians know that for one to achieve it you have to be good at your game. It is doable for a good and hard working politician but to the lazy ones it is unrealistic. This is the only way we can correct our corrupt, tribalistic,regionalistic politics. For one to him the mark he has to be good at his game.

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