A must: popularising Electoral Law reforms


Member of Parliament is a representative of the people who elected him or her into power. That is to say, he or she answers to the people.

However, many a time, we have witnessed cases of constituents crying foul over representation. The outcry, in most cases, is that their parliamentarians are no longer representing their interests.

Cases of parliamentarians being voted into power then disappearing into thin air just to reappear when the campaign draws close are not a new phenomenon.


Recently, the Special Law Commission suggested electoral law reforms. Apparently, these were arrived at after consulting “the people”. It is equally important to mention that suggestions that the country should take a closer look at electoral laws have, for the past two decades, been embraced while not being really followed through.

With the release of these reforms, fears have arisen that delays may mar the process of effecting the reforms through an Act of Parliament.

Human Rights Consultative Committee Chairperson, Robert Mkwezalamba, says the truth about reforms, any reforms, is that some aspects face challenges while others are warmly embraced.


Mkwezalamba suggests that there is need to popularize these reforms, to give room to the average Malawian to fully appreciate what these reforms are all about.

“What is critical is to raise awareness on the part of the masses to understand and appreciate that there is need to change our electoral laws,” Mkwezalamba says.

Mkwezalamba further warns that to apply delay tactics to these reforms could lead to them not being tabled at all.

He says, by next year, politicians will be preoccupied with the 2019 tripartite elections.

Mkwezalamba cited 50+1 electoral system as one of the reforms that are more likely to face resistance. Some parties might not want this to be effected due to the tedious task of getting 50 percent of votes plus one.

But this reform, in real sense, will ensure that the leader elected is elected by all Malawians and not just a selected few— be it from one region or a half of the population of another region.

The Special Law Commission, which was chaired by Justice Anthony Kamanga, was quoted as saying the adoption of the 50+1 system in presidential elections would ensure that a president is voted by the majority of Malawians.

Along those lines, Mkwezalamba is of the view that, if the reforms are further delayed, they may never see the light of day. This is because parliamentarians, especially those with presidential aspirations, may not want to let a law that will end up working against them pass under their noses.

Now to ensure that these reforms are tabled and hopefully implemented to ensure that the next leader represents all Malawians, Mkwezalamba stresses that the reforms should be tabled during the next sitting of Parliament and not the other one.

“After November this year, people will be in campaign mood and, obviously, they may not want to enact a law which may be seen to be retrogressive to their desires and goals,” Mkwezalamba said.

Mkwezalamba adds that popularising the electoral law reforms should go hand in hand with public awareness campaigns. He adds that people should be able to appreciate the reforms and, after that, be able to hold their parliamentarians accoutable so that the reforms may see the light of day.

“When they [people] are made aware of these changes, they need to demand from their Members of Parliament to ensure that they are brought to the next sitting of Parliament in November,” Mkwezalamba says.

Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) Chairperson, Steve Duwa, observes that some people may not understand the importance of the reforms, especially because some parliamentarians do not engage their constituents on crucial issues.

“Politicians rarely go and engage their constituents in terms of what they are going to say in Parliament. So, popularising them would mean that the people would have an advantage to know these reforms and, if possible, press their representatives to push the agenda in Parliament,” Duwa says.

Duwa says Malawians have to understand the reasons for reviewing the electoral laws.

“It is, indeed, important that the reform agenda should be shared with the general public. People should have an understanding of what is proposed in the electoral law reforms by the Law Commission and how these reforms will actually change our electoral processes,” Duwa says.

Clearly, the two aforementioned bodies are strongly lobbying for the popularisation of electoral law reforms to ensure that Malawians are fully aware of what is happening. Popularisation of these reforms will ensure that Malawians are not taken unawares when November comes and the reforms are tabled or when they are being implemented. Malawians deserve to know what their parliamentarians are going to table and discuss.

Some of the issues encompassed in the electoral reforms are: combination of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act and the Local Government Elections Act to form the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Act; having readily available funds for elections; reserving seats for female parliamentarians to ensure inclusion of women in Parliament; and the transitional arrangements of presidential powers.

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