Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

We need a referendum if electoral reforms fail


The case for electoral reforms has become compelling, especially after the issue has been hotly debated in recent months. A strong and active voice has come from the European Union, the British High Commission, the United Nations Development Programme and local civil society groups. They have all continued to advance the cause of changing the electoral system as per the Special Law Commission’s recommendations.

The Special Law Commission proposed six Bills, including one on changing the electoral system and amendments to allow for effective dispute resolution by delaying the swearing in of a winning presidential candidate

But in May this year, the Electoral Reforms Bills failed to move in the House, largely because of the ambivalence of the governing Democratic Progressive Party.


Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, failed to present the Electoral Reforms Amendment Bills to parliament.

He played hide and seek and later told Parliament that he could not table the Bills because the government had received the recommendations from theSpecial Law Commissioner in April, which, he said, was late.

As such, Tembenu promised to table it in Parliament in November. This is November and there are all indications that the government is, again, not ready.


The Bills seek to improve the election process in the country. The ruling party seems not happy with the proposed 50+1 amendment. This is what is making the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) jittery.

To change the current electoral system, Parliament first needs to amend Section 80 (2) of the Constitution and section 96 (5) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections (PPE) Act

Both the general public and most legislators support the Law Commission’s recommendations that Malawi should abandon the First-Past-the-Post system because it gives unfair advantage to other regions when electing a president. Many would rather have the 50+1 electoral system and this is what the Electoral Reforms Amendment Bills seek to do.

This could be the reason why DPP appears reluctant.The party is being led by a leader that was voted into power with a mere 36 percent of the national vote, small wonder they are not interested in the Bills because he is in the know that, come 2019, he may not be ableto amass enough votes. What with the incessant blackouts, the corruption that has paralysed the energy sector, the maize procurement scam and many other graft allegations against the DPP-led government.

It’s becoming clear that the ruling party wants to keep the status quo because, like other parties before it, they have been benefiting from it.

So, we cannot agree more with opposition members of Parliament who plan to protest in Parliament if the Bills are not tabled.

The Minister of Justice Tembenu has to be held accountable and deliver on the promise he made in May this year. If, that fails, we will need a referendum.

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