We need to guard our democracy more than ever

Hon. Folks. On February 3, 2020, a panel of High Court judges sitting as the Constitutional Court nullified the results of the May 21 presidential election and that the incumbent, APM was not duly elected in accordance with the electoral laws of Malawi.

Of particular significance is the Constitutional Court’s recommendation to Parliament to review the electoral law and include the much-needed electoral reforms, especially the 50+1 system of electing a head of State.

The ruling has been critically-acclaimed in Malawi and beyond, with many legal and political analysts saying that it epitomises how a functioning democratic framework should work. This was a victory for Malawi and its democratic system.

Without taking any merit from the opposition parties who went to the courts to challenge APM’s reelection and the millions of Malawians who took to the streets to defend their constitutional right, we owe this victory largely to the Judiciary.

In 180 days, the five-judge panel has given to Malawians what they have long yearned for and Parliament was unwilling to grant them; a representative government with a strong mandate. And all this after they reportedly turned down a $20 million bribe to defend our constitution.

When presented with the chance to sell out Malawians for personal gain, the judges duly chose to carry out their mandate and protect the people in line with the principles and reported the matter to ACB, who in turn, moved to charge the suspects and launch an investigation in their conduct.

This was a clear example of government institutions working together in synchronicity and harmony to safeguard our democracy and protect the rights of Malawians from agents who seek to undermine our personal aspirations for personal and political gain.

This is a moment to be savoured and celebrated for any forward-thinking and patriotic Malawian. However, these celebrations should be tempered with sobriety and caution. The real threat to our democracy is still out there.

Institutionalised corruption, regionalism, cronyism and nepotism still persist in our political system. And then there are those in the political system who seek to capitalise on these problems to advance their political agendas.

Lest we forget, it was Parliament, including members from the governing DPP, and opposition parties MCP, UDF and PP, who voted to frustrate the electoral reforms when they were brought before them in December 2018.

Our members of Parliament, were more than willing to sell out the very same electorate whose interests they were supposed to safeguard and protect when it became clear when they realised that the reforms threatened their parties’ chances of winning a majority vote in a presidential election.

Our lawmakers and their leaders, who ironically find themselves on opposite sides of the ruling, were more than willing to let the much-maligned first-past-the-post system of electing a President when they felt they could benefit from it.

This is not even the first time leaders of political parties have turned a blind eye to the social ills that have for so long crippled our democratic systems when it suited their needs.

A leader of opposition, who chose to look the other way when deputy speakers from his party were fraudulently using taxpayer’s money to pay themselves rentals while residing in their own houses, joined Malawians in celebrating a legal victory against a perceived elitist leader hell bent on using government institutions to advance his political agenda.

So too did a sitting vice-president who, for the better part of five years, remained silent while a President who plucked him from the corporate world to the second most powerful seat in the country presided over a corrupt regime only to cry wolf when serving no longer suited his political interests.

It has to be noted that both of these “leaders” coveted a former president whose two-year tenure brought us the infamous Cashgate when it seemed such an alliance would help them win the May 2019 presidential election and assume power.

If history has taught us anything, it is that these politicians will allow political and social injustices so long as it promotes their interests and those of their cronies. And it is these kinds of people who we should guard our democracy against.

The Judiciary on May 3 showed Malawi the way forward. It is up to the electorate and other government institutions to take a leaf from their book and keep providing oversight on politicians and their selfish and immoral behaviour.

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