First-past majority rule!

Hon Folks, in a light moment while celebrating victory at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre, APM mimicked MCP presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera crying like a baby over his loss.

Then, as a way of dismissing Chakwera’s claim that victory was fraudulently taken away from him, APM alleged that he too had his votes stolen in the Central Region. Was he joking?  Jane Ansah and her MEC team would know better details of the election-related “madandu” they received.

But the mention of the Centre as a focal point for APM’s “madandu” is significant for another reason: it’s where Chakwera, who came second in a presidential race extremely too close to call, pummelled APM against the ropes.

Likewise, UTM’s Saulos Chilima, who came third, floored APM in the North. The country is now rocked in after-election tension as Chakwera and Chilima are disputing the outcome of the presidential elections in court. I shudder to imagine the political whiplash should the Constitutional Court finds merit in their case.

But already there’s a problem, call it payback time for our change-averse political leaders who thwarted PAC-led reforms to change the system for electing a President from first-past-the-post to 50+1.

The MPs shot down the reforms and government rewarded them with K4 billion to share at a critical time when election campaign period was around the corner. Pity, many of them still flopped and only about a third sailed through the May 21 parliamentary elections.

Now APM is Malawi’s democratically elected President after garnering a mere 38.5 percent of the votes, thanks to first-past-the-post system. As expected, it’s the South, his base, where he got most of the votes.  The Centre overwhelmingly voted for Chakwera and the North overwhelmingly voted for new kid on the block, Chilima.

First-past-the-post system has given us exactly what PAC and others who wish this country well feared, a president who does not have the mandate of the majority of the voters. Over 60 percent of the electorate denied APM their votes!

Which begs the question: what’ll it take for APM to walk the talk on his promise to truly be the president for all Malawians and not just those who voted for him?

 So far, APM has more than once urged opposition leaders to stop protesting and work with his government to develop Malawi. Yes, Malawi needs developing because right now, it’s not rated fourth poorest country in the world by GDP per capita measure  for nothing. In addition, it also has a very low human development index (HDI) rating.

We must unite. Some say, “united we stand, divided we fall”. Others say” in unity lies strength”. For the sake of our beautiful country, the only place on planet earth we can call home, we must unite and work together as a nation to build a better Malawi for our children.

But even if Chakwera and Chilima were to recognise APM’s victory as Reverend Kaliya, independent presidential candidate, has done, that wouldn’t have sufficiently addressed the interest of uniting the country. First, there’s need for the President to have the mandate of the majority, not minority, of the voters.

Had the 50+1 been applied in the May 21 presidential elections, much of the drama, vitriol and legal tug-of-war that make us look like a nation on rehearsal for civil strife would’ve been superfluous. APM and Chakwera, as top vote-getters, would simply have contested in a runoff election to determine who between them gets the majority of the votes.

The runoff would also have, at least partly, tackled the balkanisation of Malawi into regional functional units since the winner would’ve been the one with a greater inter-regional appeal between APM and Chakwera.

At his inauguration, APM indicated he was taking his time to carefully choose his 20-member Cabinet of go-getters that would also reflect gender and regional considerations. That’s a good start and a departure from the past where mediocrity was rewarded.

I hope the same thinking will reflect the appointment of board members for the parastatals many of which have perennially been loss making and a huge burden to the taxpayer.

But there’s also an age-old practice that must go in the name of unifying the country. Let State functions be different from political rallies. Opposition leaders are an integral part of the multiparty government and should be invited to state functions and accorded the respect they deserve.

 It’s us, Malawians, the ultimate stakeholders in our democracy, who decided through an historic National Referendum of 1993 that government should have two sides like coin, the governing party and the opposition.

Unless that is respected, we shall remain a nation trapped in political power struggle while the economy continues to show characteristics of what prevails only in war-torn or failed states.

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