I don’t want to open a can of worms, but the decision by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) this week to implement a new vote tallying proposal as proposed in the electoral reforms during the forthcoming October 17 by-elections is a clear yes to the fact that there were irregularities in the 2014 Tripartite Elections. This was the case not only in Lilongwe City South East but across the whole country.
Suffice to say the discrepancies in the disputed constituency were so rampant and obscene even a kindergarten would not help noticing them. Not surprisingly, that is why when the High Court ruled that there should be a recount of the ballot papers in the disputed constituency, mysterious fire gutted the MEC warehouse in Lilongwe where the ballot papers were will being kept. But let sleeping dogs lie and not open old wounds. But kudos to all stakeholders in the 2014 Tripartite Elections who although strongly felt short-changed by the electoral system, restrained themselves from treading a path that would have plunged this country into chaos. They put the interest of the larger good above their own knowing, believing and praying that with time wrongs would be corrected. That is why with less than two years to the next Tripartite Elections, we are still grappling with what should not have happened in 2014.
One of the reforms to be implemented in the forthcoming by-elections requires recording vote outcomes both in figures and in words to check against manipulation. Another reform is that before results are transferred to the national tally centre, they will be posted at the polling centre. There is no disputing that this will go a long way towards making the outcome of the results more credible and the people elected accepted by a majority of the electorates. This has always been the wish of patriotic Malawians who want to make democracy work in the country and have value to people’s lives.
But there are other reforms which require legislation. They include switching from the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) to the 50 +1 system for electing the president from the current one where anyone who gets more votes than others secures a five-year tenancy at State House, immunity from prosecution, over and above the many other powers and privileges that are conferred on him or her by the Republican Constitution by virtue of being the President of the Republic.
While not taking anything away from MEC for some of the administrative measures it has lined up, like those mentioned above, migrating to the 50+1 system will be a game-changer for Malawi. And it will be a bigger score for MEC in its quest to ensure democracy does not just mean majority rule, but more meaningfully put power in the hands of the majority.
As has been said many times before, the proposed reform—50+1 system—stands to avert the frustrations of the current scenario where a candidate who only got a paltry 36 percent of the votes—or was rejected by the majority 64 percent of the electorate—assumes power.
I said pushing for the 50+1 system and making it a reality will be a bigger score for MEC because it will mean making APM and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) accepting to defy the tribal/regional factor which constitutes the DNA of political parties and making election outcomes in the country all too predictable.
Against the background that APM and or any DPP candidate would not be too sure if they would amass the required 50 + 1 majority support come 2019, they will do anything it takes to frustrate the proposed legislation and maintain the status quo. That is why it is incumbent upon MEC to enlist the support of everybody who wants democracy to succeed so that the proposed electoral system is made a reality.