Why 50+1 electoral system?


efore I attended a political communication class, 50+1 sounded like some animal to me.

As a prodigious soccer fan, I likened it to the way teams position themselves on the pitch. At worst, I thought it was some formation political parties use to field candidates in an election.

But thanks to a two-hour class which proficiently quenched my thirst for knowledge at The Polytechnic, I know it is one of numerous electoral systems.

The session brought me more agony than the stirs the word ‘carbuncle’ caused when Prince Charles used it in his May 1984 speech to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The royal used the word to lambast modern design, describing Peter Ahrends’ towering extension to the National Gallery as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”.

Nonetheless those sharp epochs have helped some of us embrace in totality the right to hold, express and receive opinions freely as enshrined in Section 34 of the Constitution.

Since the restoration of democracy in 1993, the country has been using the first-past-the-post system in multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections.

However, the winner-takes-all approach is just one of many electoral systems across the globe.

The system is widely seen to be unfair and many attempts have been made to improve or replace it in countries where it is in use.

In December 2017, Malawi Parliament rejected a bill proposing a shift to the 50+1 system which requires the President to be elected with over half or 50 percent of the valid votes.

The first-past-the-post system has its pros and cons. Many opponents agitate for the 50+1 majority criterion as the best alternative.

It is interesting to note that proponents of the 50+1 electoral system either pretend to be naïve or have deliberately opted to hoodwink people of little political knowledge into believing that the first-past-post system favours a particular group or party.

The current electoral system has several advantages, including the ability to provide for a direct relationship between the member of the legislature and the local constituency.

It also prevents candidates from being elected as a result of the transfer of votes from a third or fourth preference, which defeats the candidate with the largest number of first preference votes.

Those propagating the 50+1 system argue that the current system gives the mantle to a candidate not wanted by the majority of the voters.

Fine! Why then should we find solace in putting someone into power because they failed the first time and had to look for partners with whom they have a ‘common enemy’?

What if this ‘common enemy’ has the qualities and prerequisites of a good leader?

Why should one ascend to the presidency simply because they ganged up against someone?

Would such a process be equitable?

The presidency should not be attained through second selection as is the process of selecting low-performing students to public secondary schools.

The design of an electoral system is always influenced by a country’s particular conditions, including its history, culture, politics, demographic composition and the views and roles of key actors.

As such, let us not rush into crucifying the first-past-the-post system in favour of 50+1.

There are several other electoral systems which would effectively work for our nation.

Let’s bring them all to the table, analyse them and make an informed choice.

Besides, alliances should be made before elections and not after the winner is announced. n

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