The decision to adopt the 50+1 election system has been described as long overdue by an analyst who says the proposed system would help reduce the toxic politics of regionalism in Malawi.
On Wednesday, a Special Law Commission on the Review of Electoral Laws presented a report in which it proposed that the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of electing the president should be abolished and the run-off system adopted
“The commission recommends that the constitution should be amended to provide that the president should be elected by a majority of more than 50 percent of the valid votes cast. Where no such majority is obtained by any presidential candidate in the first poll, a second poll should be held in which two presidential candidates who obtained the highest and second highest number of valid votes cast should be the only candidates,” the commission said in its report.
Writing for the Conversation, Media and Communications Lecturer at the University of Malawi Jimmy Kainja welcomed the commission’s recommendation as it would require presidential candidates to reach out to regions beyond their own regions since a single region cannot give a candidate a 50+1 percent majority.
“Presidential candidates will thus be forced to consider forming alliances with candidates from other regions. This would have a good unintended consequence as politicians would be forced to extend government developmental programmes beyond their own regions.
“This would also introduce Malawi to the dynamics of alliance politics, with all its unpredictability and possible infighting within the governing alliance, given that it leaves a room for alliances of convenience, that are not necessarily in the interest of the country,” said Kainja.
He also noted that the system would reduce grievances and feelings of unfairness from regions which do not usually produce presidents under the current system.
However, President Peter Mutharika’s special advisor Hetherwick Ntaba has claimed that the run-off system is unrealistic and wasteful.
“There is no way we can attain legitimacy of people are talking about. Let us talk about the costs. In reality we are already struggling to conduct by-elections [in areas where MPs and local government councillors have died].”
Since 1994, only two presidential candidates have won presidential elections with a 50+1 majority – Bakili Muluzi in 1999 and Bingu wa Mutharika in 2009. The current president, Bingu’s younger brother Peter, secured the presidency in 2014 with 36 percent of the votes cast.