Why APM may change tune on 50+1

Hon. Folks, there’s no denying DPP spectacular loss in the October 17 2017 by elections has sent a chill down APM spine. He no longer can take for granted victory in the forthcoming 2019 presidential race.

But for a president who’s known for flip-flopping—he reneged on a campaign promise to reduce presidential powers—the loss  could as also be the reason why a bill meant to reform the system for electing the President from first-past-the-post to 50+1 is held up at the Cabinet level despite promises that it would be tabled at the current sitting of Parliament.

Although analysts argue the 50+1 system raises the barrier of entry to the highest elected political office for all contestants, the truth is that for APM it’s a double-whammy. At stake here for him alone is the incumbency.

If a runner-up can get most of the votes in the re-run—except for the 2009 polls, opposition has lost simply by splitting the for-change votes among many presidential candidates—that means end of the road for APM.

But in our democracy loss for an incumbent comes with a package of misery. Kamuzu Banda lost what he thought were his assets and was put on house arrest and later, lengthy trial. Bakili Muluzi is up to now weighed down by a K1.7 billion corruption case and ACB nearly pounced on his BCA residence and Keza property.

Joyce Banda was at the helm for only two years but, since she lost to APM in 2014, she’s been on run, moving from one metropolitan city to another, a fugitive.  Those in government today don’t hide their eagerness to see her in the dock, answering for Cashgate and any other real or imaginary cases.

Acrimony between the two sides of the political divide renders loss of power through the democratic process unattractive, if not scary, for the incumbent. The best they can hope for is to enjoy trappings of power for the maximum 10-year tenure then pass on the baton to a successor within their own political party.  Losing to the opposition is like losing a war to an enemy. This may explain why rigging mars the electoral process.

Ironically, despite that all those who have tasted the presidency know the cost of nurturing acrimonious relations between the two sides of the political divide, they’ve all in practice done little, if any, to seek unity in diversity and ensure harmonious co-existence—an insurance for their peaceful retirement. They deliberately stir the mud by playing rough while in office.

Take APM, for example.  He just unfairly invoked the power of incumbency last Saturday when responding to MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera’s remarks, describing APM as a “pathological liar” in light of his statements on how government is managing the power outage crisis rocking the economy.

APM said by calling a State President a “liar” Chakwera committed an offence according to the laws of Malawi for which he could be arrested. APM said Chakwera was pushing the President to arrest him so he could win voter sympathy by playing the martyr.

Ironically, APM in the same breath disparaged Chakwera by alleging he has fake academic credentials. Could defamation be bad if directed at the President but good if the President directs it at his rivals?

Don’t the electorate have the right to know if an elected president is a liar or does the law APM was referring to assume a president can’t be a liar? Amazing how some archaic laws meant to insulate oppressors from being held to account for their actions were imbued with absurdity!

Imagine, a President lying through the teeth and expect to use agents of the state to arrest anyone who calls him or her a liar. Then how shall good, honest citizens avert incarceration for telling the truth?  Should they probably say the President was being economical with the truth?

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