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DPP stuck in ethnic politics

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Mdzukulu, there is no doubt that Malawi is a country facing innumerable problems.

You would agree, for instance, that the promise of dignity, peace and development through the engine of democratic governance has been mercilessly shattered and, with time, this could become much worse.

Two and half years have passed since Malawians reengaged President Peter Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to lead the country.

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The expectations, mdzukulu, among the public were that the ‘new’ DPP administration would walk the talk on campaign promises.

But the rhetoric, which has become the hallmark of the ‘new’ administration, is only breeding frustration and anger.

And no one seems to care about what is happening to the poor masses.

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The executive arrogance that the country is beginning to learn to live with is only taking the country backwards.

Of course, mdzukulu, this is with the exception of a few favoured people who are perfectly contented with the status quo and will fight to their last drop of blood to keep things that way.

Apparently, the lynchpins of a functioning democracy are inclusion of all and sundry in policy-making and public offices being transparent and accountable to the populace on the premise that public power is conferred on trust by the citizenry and that it must be exercised solely to protect and promote the interests of the citizenry.

Now, mdzukulu, it is argued the country’s transition from one-party rule to multiparty democracy faced a number of problems.

One such problem is that during the drafting of Malawi’s Constitution, it is clear little attention was given to promoting inclusiveness and stability of the country’s democracy.

But all was not lost.

Realising this, Public Affairs Committee (Pac) and various stakeholders have been pushing for electoral and local governance reforms.

Pac, for instance, recently wrote the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) requesting for an audience with members of the Cabinet Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to discuss the reforms.

Local government reforms are aimed at promoting the country’s decentralisation policy so that Malawi really becomes a democracy that the public so desires.

Decentralisation per se, mdzukulu, creates a democratic environment and, eliminates dual administration, promotes accountability and good governance and mobilises the masses for socio-economic development.

Certainly, the prospects of a stable and efficient government are determined by many factors other than the electoral system. However, the results an electoral system produces can contribute to stability in a number of respects.

The key questions in this regard are whether people perceive the system to be fair, whether government can efficiently enact legislation and govern and whether the system avoids discriminating against particular parties or interest groups.

And, mdzukulu, it is evident that the First-Past-the-Post presidential electoral system the country has been using since 1994 encourages the development of political parties based on clan, ethnicity or region.

As a result, parties are encouraged to base their campaigns and policy platforms on hostile conceptions of clan, ethnicity, race or regionalism.

But this week, unfortunately, the government, which has embarked on public sector reforms, through OPC declined to meet Pac on the electoral and local government reforms.

OPC absurdly said Pac had already engaged various stakeholders on the matter, hence the proposed meeting might not be necessary because there is nothing new that the body may discuss with the Cabinet committee at this point in time.

But this response indicates that Mutharika and DPP are becoming more unresponsive to changes in public opinion and would want to entrench divisive politics thriving on a pattern of geographically concentrated electoral support.

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