Peeping through 2014

According to the Electoral Laws of Malawi, it is a requirement to have Presidential and Parliamentary elections after every five years (Section 80(1) of the 1994 Republican Constitution. Now that we only have less than two years to the electoral year, political parties and all stakeholders are busy strategising and positioning themselves to make an impact in 2014.

For the ruling party, it will not be a bad idea to look back and take stock of what they have done well as per their 2009 manifesto, while also analysing their shortfalls. As for the other parties, feasting on the ruling party’s shortfalls and undelivered promises should be their main pre-occupation for now.

The use of “other” parties is a deliberate shift from the mostly used “opposition” parties because the word has negative connotations in today’s’ politics, more so when one considers that their duty is to complement government efforts; hence, they have an obligation to offer constructive criticism and solutions where government does not meet peoples’ expectations.

Credible, free and fair elections are the pride of every country and all players in the electoral process need to play it safe and act responsibly, realising that elections begin way before the polling day.

The coming elections are promising to be tough in terms of campaign strategies to be employed by participating political parties. Well-articulated party policies will play a greater role in swaying the people to vote for a particular party. This will be a welcome move from previous election campaign meetings where individual credentials were used as a trump card. Twenty years into multi party democracy should be enough for the nation to start on a different note, debating and discussing issues that affect the people rather than hero-worshipping leaders.

Actually, going by what is happening now, 2014 promises to be a year where the courts are going to dictate the mode, pace and conduct of party campaigns since government seems bent on using public resources and institutions to advance its agenda and remain in power.

The police is one institution often used as an instrument of terror on citizens. Instead of protecting the rights of individuals, it tramples on them, leaving one wondering whether the officers live in the same country as everyone else once they remove their uniforms. What comes to mind is the way the July 20 2011 mass demonstrations were handled by our security personnel and a question that follows is: Were such actions really intended to protect people and property or just to instil fear?

Another thorny issue that keeps coming up now and again during election time is the use of public resources for campaign purposes. It is common to see government and parastatal vehicles ferrying people to and from functions organised by the ruling party. This they do with so much impunity although it all comes at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, much as such things go unchallenged, it is every citizen’s right to ensure that his tax is used for its intended purpose of providing goods and services to the general population than fund a particular party to stay in power. As such, courts can be moved to make a determination on matters of such abuses. This is all in line with the democratic values that form foundations and tenets of multipartyism.

Town and city councils also fall victim to party politics in the sense that they are manipulated by the ruling party to refuse to grant permissions to “other” parties to hold political party meetings in their jurisdictions.

Chiefs sometimes do this on “instructions from above”. This behaviour is retrogressive and not in tandem with democracy. It is every citizen’s right to make full and informed democratic choice as per Section 40 of our Constitution. This choice can only be effectively made upon careful scrutiny of each party’s policies regarding various issues affecting an individual’s livelihood.

The issues are manifold and we shall embark on a journey together, trying to highlight some of the things we tend to ignore but which play a very important role in the way we live our lives and take care of our families in the years after an election.

Let us make a better Malawi now. -The author likes to comment on social issues.

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