As the country edges closer to the next Tripartite Elections in 2019, stakeholders have, among other things, proposed amendment of the system of electing the President from the current First-Past-the-Post to the 50-plus-one system.
The 50-plus-one system means that a winning candidate should amass more than 50 percent of the votes to be crowned president. Currently, Malawi uses the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) electoral system. This allows whoever gets more votes than other candidates to be crowned president irrespective of whether the margin is minimal or large.
There can be no doubt that amending the electoral law to adopt the 50-plus-one system has many advantages.u
The system which is also called the Majoritarian electoral system in Political Science allows the incumbent president to have legitimacy from the voters as most people will see the power of their votes being manifested in the man or woman they eventually send to State House.
Further, the Majoritarian system also reduces cases of electoral disputes as the person who becomes president wins outright unlike the current situation where a president can win with a meagre 20 000 votes and the losers live with suspicions of fraud and the stealing of votes.
Other proposed electoral reforms are that the swearing-in of the President-elect and Vice-President should be done 30 days after voting. The aim is to give aggrieved parties a chance to file their complaints to the courts of law and be heard.
Another proposed electoral reform is that the presidential candidates and their running mates should have a minimum of a first degree or its equivalent from a recognised or accredited university.
I must say, this is tricky to implement. And I see the proposal being met with a lot of skepticism.
My take is that this one should be shot down before it wastes our time.
But suffice to say that the other proposed reforms by the Malawi Law Commission are important and one hardly needs to waste time justifying them.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has said unless the reforms are made before the end of this year, it will be difficult to adopt them. MEC could be right. But that is not my worry.
My worry is that given that President Peter Mutharika won with only 36 percent of the vote, it is most likely that the Democratic People’s Party regime may want to frustrate the amendments. This is because the President and his party may not be too sure if come 2019 they will have the support of the voters to sail through without a re-run.
For now I must say, it is a shame that a minority president is presiding over millions of Malawians most of whom never voted for him.
We were in the same scenario between 2004 to 2009 when the late Bingu wa Mutharika led this country on minority votes.
He was crowned president with 38 percent of the votes owing to the same FPTP electoral system. In practical terms, the FPTP means that the majority of Malawian voters (62 percent) did not want Bingu during his first term just as 64 percent of Malawian voters do not want Peter Mutharika because they voted for other candidates.
It is for this reason that as the Constitution-making process progresses, government, and all stakeholders should work with speed to ensure that the 50-plus-one presidential winning threshold is enshrined in the new Constitution so that in future, Malawians should be governed by a president elected by a majority of voters.
- The article first appeared in Weekend Nation newspaper