Malawi has been seriously warned to tread carefully on implementation of electoral reforms including the highly debated 50+1 threshold of national vote.
This follows a recent move by the Special Law Commission to adopt a 50+1 vote proposed law that will see the country receding from the winner-takes-it-all scenario of electing the president.
With the new system, the winning president will have to amass at least 50+1 percent of the national vote.
In the previous elections, Malawi had been using the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) or winner-takes-all system to elect presidents, Members of Parliament (MPs) and ward councillors.
In the run-off system, if no candidate reaches the required rate during the first poll, a run-off will have to be held in which two presidential candidates who obtained the highest and second highest number of valid votes cast should be the only candidates.
For this to be adopted, Parliament needs to amend Section 80 (2) of the Constitution and Section 96 (5) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections (PPE) Act to provide change of the electoral system to the 50+1 threshold.
But what could be done for such reforms to be implemented without hustles? Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) Director, Steve Duwa says all these require treating them with a ‘sober mind’.
He says: “The expectation is that electoral stakeholders should engage in a robust but sober debate on the need for prioritising the recommendations and draft bills from the Commission; i.e which recommendations should be implemented in the short, medium and long term. This is why I say we avoid wholesale implementation and I believe that this is why this report will go to Ministry of Justice then Cabinet before Parliament.”
Duwa told Malawi24 in an email response on Wednesday that the Special Law Commission on the review of electoral laws has taken on board majority of the recommendations from the national taskforce adding that recommendations from several stakeholders including MESN were really looked into by the commission.
Initially in reaction to the report by the Special Law Commission, MESN indicated it remained satisfied.
“MESN is generally satisfied and applaud the Commission for the thorough analysis and professional approach to the issues presented or identified for its consideration for the law reform process. MESN believes that the report generally presents the true spirit of the intentions and aspirations of majority of Malawians consulted so far over the electoral reforms agenda,” said Duwa.
He went on to advise lawmakers not to be cautious and not to be overexcited when taking the bill to the House through private members bills.
Duwa also made mention that ahead of the polls in 2019, MESN has noted that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has been implementing sound reforms.
The electoral body was slammed over several irregularities such as provision of equipment during the 2014 elections.
But he expressed worry as regards to women representation in the elections.
‘’I would prioritise the recommendation on increasing women representation in parliament and local councils because it addresses a national need, ‘’ said Duwa.
Unlike in the 2009 polls, in 2014 it was revealed that women performed miserably in the elections despite unending efforts to up the numbers of women in politics.
Official results by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) show that 32 women out of 261 who vied for parliamentary seats won. This is in contrast to the 2009 poll in which 43 women were elected as lawmakers in the 193 member House.
On the part of Local Government Elections in 2014, of the 457 councillors elected during the last elections, there were only 56 women who won while the remaining 401 were men.
Malawi goes to the polls in 2019 to vote for a President, Members of Parliament (MPs) and Ward Councillors in its second time of holding a tripartite election.