Zambia offers Malawi a lesson to adopt 50-plus-1 electoral system:  ‘To avoid govt elected by minority’

Malawi goes to national polls in three years time but debatefor change from the current first-past-the-post and adopts a 50 per cent plus one law to ensure that the winner of presidential elections enjoyed majority support  is continuing to heighten as it gets closer with Zambia polls providing good lesson.

Mutharika and Lungu
President Mutharika  (r) and  Zambia President Lungu:  Lesson from Zambia, 50-plus-1 electoral system can work

Malawi’s interfaith organization, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) have recognised that 50 per cent plus one rule guarantees the leader acceptable, popular, majoritarian mandate.

Democratic Progressive Party (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

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

Timothy Mtambo of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) claiming the 50 plus one system would stop politicians from banking on tribal or regional votes but would crisscross the whole country instead canvassing for votes in their  home base only.

Another rights activist Billy Mayaya claimed it was only Bakili Muluzi who had a 50 percent of the votes in 1994 at the dawn of multiparty but in the subsequent election years, the presidents have been winning a threshold of 30 percent making them literally tribal leaders.

Associate professor of political studies at Catholic University Nandini Patel  is pon record saying 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.

“For instance, we need to achieve fair representation at the same time, avoiding political exclusion. Likewise, on legitimacy, we need a government that enjoys popular confidence and trust at the same time, avoiding a government elected by a minority. So too on participation, our goal should be to make every vote count in determining elections results at the same time, avoiding vote wastage,” Patel said.

She said  50 percent plus one electoral law demand was in line with the Law Commission’s technical review of the Constitution which requires am 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.”

Neighbouring Zambia’s successful adoption and implementation of 50-plus-one electoral system that saw President Edgar Lungu being reelected after securing 50.35 percent, just above the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a rerun.

University of Malawi constitutional law expert Edge Kanyongolo said Zambians have just proven that the 50+1 electoral system “actually works”.

Another political scientist Happy Kayuni at Chancellor College (Chanco), a constituent college of the University of Malawi  said it was high time Malawi decided on adopting 50+1 system .


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5 years ago

It’s very high time MEC adopted 50+1 electoral system for fairness sake. 2019 is just around the corner so let parliament debate towards passing electoral laws before the general election. Malawi keeps electing accidental leaders due to flawed electoral system which very unfair for integral voters.

5 years ago

Its indeed true we need to implement the 50+1 system as soon as possible

5 years ago
Reply to  Kenso


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