Debate has ensued on whether the Constitution (Amendment) Bill to fine tune issues surrounding holding of presidential elections using the 50-percent-plus-one vote system should include a clause governing political party electoral alliances.
United Democratic Front (UDF) has ignited the debate, saying it is pertinent to have regulation of alliances in the law to ensure that no political party feels superior to its partners, especially during the second
poll if the first had no clear winner.
But Malawi Law Society (MLS) as well as Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have said there is no need to have a national law regulating political party alliances.
In an interview yesterday, MLS president Patrick Mpaka said members of Parliament should not waste time trying to regulate political alliances.
He said: “They must focus on how governments can deliver the will of the people instead of focusing on power sharing arrangements through alliances.
“Alliances seem to be largely an advancement of selfish interests instead of the collective wishes of the people clearly expressed in the Constitution.”
Mpaka recalled that in 2009 former president Bingu wa Mutharika got 66.17 percent of the votes because in his first term he appeared to deliver the will of the people.
“Let the lawmakers make electoral laws that align those in power to the already constitutionally expressed collective and inter-generational wishes of the people of Malawi,” he said.
In the proposed law, when any of the candidates fails to obtain a majority of more than 50 percent in the first poll, a second poll shall be held within 60 days after declaration of the results.
The amendment is more explicit in Section 35 of the proposed Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill, which under Section 35(1) stipulates who will contest in the second poll when a fertiliser blenders in the country, that is, Malawi Fertiliser Company Limited and Optichem (2000) Limited to make 51 500 metric tonnes of basal dressing fertiliser. This will be used to reach out to 1.03 million beneficiaries.”
The other donations, Kawale said, were 20 000MT of NPK from the World Food Programme which will reach out to 400 000 beneficiaries.
“Through a loan from African Development Bank, the ministry will procure 20 144MT of fertiliser, 10 072MT of NPK and 10 072MT of Urea. This will be used to reach out to 201 440 beneficiaries,” he said.
The blending to cost taxpayers about K40 billion will be drawn from the AIP allocation. He said Malawi Government will buy 42 000MT of additional raw materials to be used for blending.
But the minister did not tackle the issue surrounding a botched K750 million fertiliser contract which cost his predecessor Lobin Lowe alongside then Deputy Minister of Agriculture Madalitso Kambauwa
majority of more than fifty percent is not obtained by any candidate in the first poll.
Those to contest are: “(1a) the highest and second highest number of valid votes cast in the first poll; or (b) an equal number of valid votes cast in the first poll, being the highest votes amongst the candidates that stood in the election.”
In February 2020, a five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court defined majority in the declaration of winner of a presidential election as 50-percent-plus-one vote. The interpretation was upheld by a seven-judge panel of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal in May the same year.
Following the interpretation, major political parties formed alliances ahead of the court-sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election held on June 23 2020 purportedly because none of them was confident of garnering 50-percent-plus-one vote going it alone.
Reacting to the provision, acting UDF spokesperson Yusuf Mwawa said in getting a proper legal framework, as the law currently culminated from court rulings, provision for alliances should be included and enforced by the law.
He said: “The current framework has some gray areas that need to be explicitly redefined and modified, such as scenarios of electoral alliances.
“And there is need to develop a legislation to allow a five-year period for an electoral alliance and that any deviation should call for dissolution of government, should that alliance form a government.”
Mwawa said UDF will support the amendments as presented, but will also lobby like-minded parties in Parliament to support and/ or adopt their position on alliance enforcement.
B u t DP P, wh i c h partnered UDF in the Fresh Presidential Election, said while it supported the proposed law, it does not believe in regulating alliances.
DPP spokesperson Shadreck Namalomba said the party supports the proposed law because it recognises the proposal as one among many ways of uniting Malawi.
He said: “DPP does not believe in alliances of convenience, but of service to the people. The law as proposed, though silent on alliances, does not outlaw alliances. Any party or individuals are at liberty to form alliances.
“We believe in strengthening our party and mobilising all Malawians to join the mighty DPP. We won the 2009 elections with 66 percent of the vote. We can do it again at any time.”
MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka , whose party teamed up with UTM Party and seven other political parties to form the governing Tonse Alliance, said Parliament will simply be putting in place mechanisms and re-enforcing the interpretation of the existing laws by the court
“This is a move in the right direction in strengthening our democracy,” he said.
On regulating alliances, Mkaka said: “Let it be a contest for the main parties on the ballot. They should, however, be free to make arrangements behind curtains with parties they would not be part of the second round.”
UTM Party spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo said the party’s secretary general Patricia Kaliati was better placed to speak on the matter. However, Kaliati could not comment, saying she was abroad and asked to respond later.
But legal scholar Dr Benardette Malunga, who teaches law at the University of Malawi, agreed with the UDF school of thought that alliances need to be regulated.
She gave an example of Kenya where alliances are regulated by laws.
Malunga said: “It is only prudent to legally regulate such alliances. Currently our laws do not provide for such provisions to the disadvantage of smaller parties that get exploited from such alliances.
“The law would help to dictate the nature, requirements and effect of such alliances. Other jurisdictions such as Kenya have regulated alliances in their laws.”
Political analyst Ernest Thindwa said in a separate interview that each electoral system has its own strengths and flaws which tend to stress certain governance values at the expense of others.
He said trade-offs on governance values should be anticipated when reviewing the electoral law.
Parliament is set to debate and enact a comprehensive legal framework that seeks to guide the conduct of elections in the country, including clarifying on the 50-percent-plus-one vote in the presidential election.
Three electoral reforms Bills are lined up for tabling by Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo during the five-week Mid- Year Budget Review Meeting of Parliament which opened in Lilongwe on Monday. The three Bills are Constitution (Amendment), Electoral Commission Act (Amendment) and Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections.