As the year 2018 comes to an end, among many other successes worth celebrating in Malawi is 25 years of democracy. Yes, even the narrative on the streets is no longer about bringing democracy, but achieving matured democracy.
Paradoxically, after 25 years of democracy, there is still a lot left to be desired, particularly from the political front, in terms of efforts towards achieving a matured democracy. Our politicians continue to demonstrate that democracy cannot triumph against their interests. This leaves us wondering if indeed these politicians really appreciate the sacrifices that Bakili Muluzi, Chakufwa Chihana and others made in the years prior to 1993 to have the democracy they are abusing today.
It even becomes disgusting when such violations grow roots within political parties. Records are clear on how political parties, particularly the big guns, continue to violate the tenets of democracy in their parties in the interest of the few, the so-called powerful members.
As we head towards the 2019 polls, it seems the interests of these few powerful people in different political parties continue to push others to the corner—exposing aspirants to the edges of their political career. Is that democracy?
In one of our earlier editions, we hailed political leaders who declared that all seats—parliamentary and wards—are up for grabs and should be competed for on merit ahead of the 2019 polls. Coming from major political parties, we viewed these statements as indicators of a maturing democracy.
During the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) convention in Blantyre, the party’s leader Peter Mutharika advised the party leadership in respective sections to give anyone interested in local or parliamentary seats an opportunity to compete favourably. He asked the leaders not to shield or impose any name on the voters.
The same sentiments were shared by Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the second most powerful party on the land and other parties.
Sadly, instead of living by example, the two major parties are demonstrating the opposite on the ground. Recently, there have been internal conflicts between the party leadership and aspiring candidates for the 2019 polls.
Now the rift continues to widen. For instance, in DPP some senior party officials have issued a declaration that blocks some aspirants from contesting in certain constituencies to protect the incumbent legislators. The party has even suspended primaries in some constituencies to protect the few powerful people. In Chiradzulu, for instance, DPP has blocked a hot contender, Oliver Nakoma, from competing against Joseph Mwanamveka.
It is even getting worse in the MCP where some aspirants, who feel their loss during primaries was propagated by some leaders, are threatening to dump the party and contest as independent candidates. This is against the party’s decision that all losers should not dump the party, but support the winners. But for whose interests? Politics is a career and a source of bread for most politicians. By barring them, what will they get for their table if they do not make it to Parliament or win as ward councillor?
We on the streets are not surprised by these growing in-fights. We call it a product of poor leadership. In the first place, we argue that it is not democracy to force someone not to compete against others just because he or she chose to belong to a political party. Political leaders do not represent parties in parliament but we the voters. Let democracy prevail by leaving all seats up for grabs to allow us to decide through a vote,