Chinsinga says demos signal broken system

Political analyst and academic Blessings Chinsinga has described the post-election tension as a manifestation of a broken system which needs to be redressed for the country to retain trust of some Malawians who feel let down by the democratic process.

Speaking in Salima on Saturday during a workshop on parliamentary coverage for editors and reporters organised by Parliament of Malawi with support from the African Institute for Development Policy (Afidep), he said the demonstrations speak volumes of the serious challenges the country is facing.

Last week’s demonstrations were highly patronised

Said Chinsinga: “As a political scientist, I have been particularly interested in the messages demonstrators have been displaying.

“It is very clear that beyond the anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations, the demonstrators have a host of complaints that they would want to be addressed in the system.”

Chinsinga, who is a University of Malawi, Chancellor College professor and also director of Centre for Social Research, said since the advent of multiparty system of government in 1994, there have been serious governance challenges which need to be addressed so that those who feel left out do not completely lose trust.

He said: “The point here is that people are not getting what they had expected when we made a transition to democracy in May 1994. The reason is very simple; there have been more emphasis on procedures and not necessarily the substantive benefits of democracy.”

Chinsinga cited poverty levels and the widening gap between the rich and the poor as some of the issues which need urgent redress, saying they have created disenchantment among people.

Hundreds of Malawians have been participating in nationwide protests led by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to demand the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly presiding over flawed elections.

But Ansah has rejected the calls, saying she will wait for the court’s judgement on the matter to decide whether to quit.

In an interview with The Nation last week, another political analyst and academic Nandini Patel said much as demonstrations were a constitutional right, there was a need for clarity on what people are demonstrating for.

She said: “If we talk about the fight for political justice, why disrupt the work of the electoral management body?”

Patel, who has extensively researched and published on elections and democracy, earlier also faulted demands by Public Affairs Committee (PAC) for Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Jane Ansah to resign. Meanwhile, commentators have called for a deep soul-searching to bring sanity in the country as the protests have in some cases been characterised by violence and looting of both private and public property.

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