50+1 system draws mixed reactions
Three major political parties in the country have responded differently to the Public Affairs Committee (Pac) call for the government to implement a recommendation that the President must be elected by majority of 50 percent plus one.
The 50 plus one system is also called the Majoritarian electoral system. It calls for the winning candidate to have more than 50 percent of the votes.
Currently, the country uses first-past-the-post or winner-takes-all and this system allows whoever gets more votes than other candidates to be crowned President.
This is irrespective of whether the margin was minimal or large and irrespective of the percentage of the winning candidate.
Among 21 resolutions made from its recent 5th all-inclusive stakeholder conference, Pac said the government should ensure that recommendations from the constitutional Review Report of 2007 and electoral reforms are put into law by mid-2016 with special mention of 50+1 system.
While the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says the issue is not for the party but Malawians to decide, the main opposition Malawi Congress Party(MCP) is of the view that the system is not necessarily a panacea to the country’s compromised electoral system.
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila said there is an electoral reform process that is taking place and that process has not yet brought a report on what Malawians think can be done.
“We do not want to treat this issue, very important issue, emotionally just because in the previous elections, probably the results were not good as we wished. That is not our stand.
“Our stand is; there is a process and we are waiting for that report to tell us what Malawians think about our electoral system so that we can follow. People are the bosses and they have to decide what future they want for this country,” Kasaila said.
MCP spokesperson Jessie Kabwila, who thinks Pac came up with its resolutions under intimidation, said the party supports 50+1 system but the country should prioritise reforms that would stop rigging in the election management.
“As Malawi Congress Party, we think the issue of 50+1 is crucial but it is important that we first put credibility in the voting process that we have in this country. MCP has lost elections for three times not because of 50+1 but because institutions are politicised, the judiciary is compromised and we have commissioners who say they are working on behalf of the MCP but they betray their own party. So our emphasis is on prioritising reforms that will deal with rigging,” Kabwila said.
PP spokesperson, Ken Msonda, said the party expects the use of the system in 2019.
“We should apply 50+1 so that the President must have the mandate to rule. At the moment things are not working because the President was the choice of the minority and the majority rejected him,” Msonda said.
The National Task Force on Electoral Reforms which was established in October 2014 finalised consultations and engagement meetings with various electoral stakeholders and handed over the reports to Malawi Law Commission in January this year.
Co-chairperson of the National Taskforce on Electoral Reforms, Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steve Duwa said the Malawi Law Commission had indicated that they needed six to eight months to finalise the process of looking at the reports.
“But that period will start from the time they will be given resources for the process. So, on that I may not be able to comment as that part is for the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] who are funding the process and the Law Commission itself,” Duwa said.
The Law Commissioner Getrude Hiwa had not responded to our questionnaire as we went to press.
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