Human rights activist and researcher for Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Mankhumbo Munthali has said statement that opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are still consulting on the call for voting system of electing a Head of State to be changed from the current first-past-the-post to one for a 50 per cent plus one law to ensure that the winner of presidential elections enjoyed majority support is “intriguing.”
MCP president Lazarous Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition in parliament, has been on record saying the current set up has “failed voters”.
Under the current first-past-the-post system, the winner takes all.
The opposition wants to move to a system of universal legitimacy.
But President Peter Mutharika had an audience with officials from the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) recently, he urged MEC to resist the temptation to push for changes as a response to sectoral complaints “as opposed to a real and genuine national concern.”
MCP public relations officer Alekeni Menyani is however quoted in the press saying the party was “consulting on the 50%+1 to win the presidential election and will come up with a position once the party has agreed”.
His comments drew a slew of criticism from CHRR’s Munthali.
Wondered Munthali: “MCP was MCP still consulting? Have we all not often been told by MCP leadership particularly its leader Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and spokesperson Dr. Jessie Kabwira that MCP supports the 50% plus one. The local media can attest to this. Does this mean that Dr Chakwera and Dr Kabwira have been preaching 50% plus one gospel without consulting their constituents?”
Munthali added: “Does it mean that MCP is suddenly contemplating on possibly changing its earlier position after realising that there is some possibility that they might benefit from the current system just as DPP did in the 2014 elections? If so, what does this say about MCP’s adherance to principles, and most importantly principles of democratic governance? MCP’s reaction is not only surprising but raises more questions than answers.”
The human rights campaigner said in a broader view, MCP comments by Menyani may also reflect the perennial problem of lack of principles and ideologies that has characterised Malawi political parties since the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1993.
“The issue of 50 plus one- without prejudicing any opposing views- must be supported as a key governance issue that would enhance legitimacy even if some political individuals think otherwise- that is limiting their chances to acquiring power,” Munthali stated.
According to The Nation, United Democratic Front (UDF) has backed Mutharika’s position as UDF spokesperson Ken Ndanga is quoted saying: “Our view was that we should at all cost avoid looking at just a particular election or dealing with electoral problems that are exclusive to a particular political party. The reforms are a very important aspect of our electoral process and should be prioritised.”
Munthali said it is “not surprising “ to learn about DPP and UDF holding some reservations to some sections of the current electoral reforms particularly the proposed absolute majority (50 percent plus one on Presidential race),
DPP and UDF are in a parliamentary working relationship.
Civil society groups and opposition political parties are pushing for the electoral reforms following chaotic tripartite elections held in 2014 which were marred by several irregularities and resulted in several court challenges.
The push for electoral reforms is backed by the United Nations (UN) which argued that the reforms would enhance the country’s democracy despite political risks associated with the exercise.
UNDP country representative Mia Seppo warned that leaving misalignments in the current laws unaddressed would impede progress and development in the country observing that electoral reforms have been a recurring subject during the post election period since 1999.
University of Malawi political science lecturer at Chancellor College, Boniface Dulani (PhD), said the reform proposals have been discussed in several forums for a number of years now and it was time to take them to the next level.
“There are three years between now and the next elections. This in my view is sufficient time to enact the reforms into law,” he said as quoted by The Nation.
CHHR’s Munthali told Nyasa Times that it is important that the political; leadership -whether those in the ruling and opposition – should be willing to stand up and enact the laws that are for the national good even if they might not work for them.
The 50 plus one electoral law entails that where in a general election there is no candidate who gather 50 percent, there should be a run off for the top two candidates to determine the winner.
Malawi’s interfaith organization, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) have recognised that 50 per cent plus one rule guarantees the leader acceptable, popular, majoritarian mandate.
DPP leader Peter Mutharika was declared the winner of Malawi’s May 20, 2014 presidential election after defeating Joyce Banda.
Mutharika, the brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, 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.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :