For starters, there has not been much in our laws about political parties. By our right of freedom of association, anyone, or any group of people, can form a political party if they so wish.
The Political Parties (Registration and Regulation) Act which for a while has regulated parties in the country failed miserably to manage emerging challenges such as financing and functioning of political parties in the country.
While we know that government’s gaffes are legion, and the misery we are in as Malawians is unimaginable, allow us today to join genuine and patriotic Malawians in congratulating President Peter Mutharika on signing into law the Political Parties Bill replacing the Political Parties (Registration and Regulation) Act.
From now on, until some mischievous lawmakers connive and decide to make amendments, no political party or individual will be allowed to give handouts to entice voters before elections.
That act alone is punishable by law with a K10 million fine or five years imprisonment.
What is thrilling about this Act is that it also brings some sanity to our politics.
The new law also gives powers to the Registrar of Political Parties to deregister political parties that do not win in elections or hold conventions.
Fines will also be imposed on political parties that do not declare donations.
This is good news for our democracy and perhaps the best thing that Mutharika has so far done to strengthen our budding democracy.
We are happy because someone now has to think twice before their flawed imagination, driven by greed, forces them to form a political party 15 months before elections.
But while we are happy with the Political Parties Act because it conforms to the current dispensation, the Referendum Act, on the other hand, is typical authoritarian.
It is a raw deal for Malawians because, as ably said by Dr Mwiza Nkhata, a law expert, the new law gives powers to call for a referendum to the President, which is the opposite of what the initial bill was seeking to achieve.
So if a president is reluctant to call for the referendum because of reasons known to him or herself, Malawians will have no powers to move him.
The earlier proposed bill by the Special Law Commission reads: “Upon submission of a petition to the President signed by not less than five hundred thousand (500,000) registered voters, proclaim, by order published in the Gazette, that a referendum shall be held.”
On this scandal, Malawi Congress Party, as the main opposition party, gets the blame too for failing to lobby the House to strip the President of the powers. This is political expediency versus our interests as the electorate.
This makes it hard not to be pessimistic about our politicians’ ability to manage a democratic country such as Malawi. You all let us down.
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