Adulterated 50+1 Bill for the trashcan!

Hon Folks, there’s only one place for the adulterated 50+1 Bill—the trashcan. MPs know where the trashcan is since it’s not long ago when they threw in it the adulterated Access to Information (ATI) Bill.

They also know how to winnow the chaff from the letter and spirit of government Bills.

The problem with extending the 50+1 requirement to Parliamentary and Local Government polls is that it renders run-offs practically impossible to execute in our case where about 580 positions are up for grabs.

I’m yet to learn where else in Africa are MPs and Councillors elected on the basis of 50+1. In any case, in Malawi voting for the President is by universal suffrage and the winner forms and is head of government, State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

No MP, let alone ward councillor, commands such authority and therefore, the premise for extending 50+1 to MPs and Councillors is petty and suspicious.

Ditching the arguably less costly and easier to implement first-past-the-post for the arduous 50+1 must be done for the presidential election in 2019. It’s worth the effort and money to ensure the occupant of the highest political office in the land has the mandate of the majority of the electorate.

Fancy, APM, whose administration is detested for its “executive arrogance”, only got 36.4 percent of the votes in 2014, implying that the majority 63.6 percent of those who voted denied him the mandate. How far removed can the first-past-the-post system be from the fundamental constitutional principle that says “all legal and political authority of the state derives from the people of Malawi”!

That said, not everything in the so-called 50+1 Bill is bad. Bringing back the Recall Provision is something that the electorate have always demanded. It is a tool the constituents could use to recall a wayward representative in the august House but MPs repealed it before its efficacy was tested back in the days of Bakili Muluzi first term (1994-99).

They also repealed the Senate provision, effectively ensuring there are no checks for whatever they do in the lower house. For a long time, the Executive was a beneficiary of the machinations to insulate MPs from being held accountable.

They used it to rape section 65 of the Constitution and to change the supreme law and the statutes to serve partisan interests of the ruling party and its leader, including the passing of “bad laws”. It’s interesting that APM has recently asked the question: “To whom do the honourable members answer?”

Could he have asked that question if DPP had the numerical supremacy in the House? Or could he just have taken advantage of it—as did his predecessors—and ensure they blindly serve government of the day much the same way as do chiefs Ngolongoliwa, Kyungu and Lundu?

Another welcome change is the section that strips MPs of voting rights at the local council. The Constitution gives those voting rights to the councillors, not MPs. Interestingly it was the same DPP under Bingu wa Mutharika that brought about the mess.

Having ditched UDF in 2005, barely a year after winning the presidency on its ticket, Bingu built DPP as a ruling party by encouraging defections from UDF, MCP and other parties. However, the party had no base at the grassroots, hence it dodged local polls for the period Bingu was in office.

Instead, Bingu rewarded MPs and chiefs—he elevated so many traditional leaders and increased their honorarium—by allowing them to usurp the powers and rights of councillors.

Restoring the laws to reflect the will of the people is welcome but the question is: will the MPs pass the parts of the 50+1 Bill that strip them of the powers they already have?

It’d be a Christmas gift to Malawians, if they do. If they don’t, we won’t be surprised. APM himself glorified power hunger by rescinding his own decision to reduce powers vested in the presidency. Who in Malawi doubts the saying that power corrupts? n

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