50+1 does not guarantee peace and stability, says analyst

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Malawi should stick to the First Past The Post system as one of the ways of ensuring continued peace and stability in the country, an analyst has said.

The analyst, Imran Jaffali, was speaking in an interview. He was reacting to the People’s Party’s call for the re-tabling of the 50%+1 bill.

Parliament started meeting today and the former ruling party said it was looking forwards to the tabling of the bill.

Members of Parliament unanimously rejected the bill early this year. Interestingly, PP MPs were among those that rejected the bill, albeit indirectly. Most of them abstained from voting on the bill while others were deliberately absent from the house, leading to the defeat of the bill.

Jafali said there is no evidence that the law strengthens democracy as some argue but rather weakens it by creating conditions for violence.

“Malawi needs to mantain its peace and stability by retaining an election system that guarantees it. The 50%+1 system dies not guarantee that peace. The system has led to conflicts in some democracies in Africa,” he said.

In 2011, violence erupted in Liberia when the candidate from the opposition boycotted the second round, alleging fraud during the first round. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won both rounds

In 1993 in Republic of the Congo, as ruling party landslide victory became certain, the opposition boycotted the second round and took up arms.

In 1992, the candidate of the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria led in the first round. The military intervened to cancel the second round

“We have seen how it has led to tension and violence in Kenta in recent years. This law doesn’t have any bearing at all on the strengthening of democracy and the legitimacy of the presidency as its proponents argue. There is no proof to this,” he said.

Imran also dismissed the argument that it ensures credible presidency if a candidate ascends to the position when he gets the majority of 50%+1 vote.

“The problem with our voting system is not the First Past the Post; it is who we pick for the top job. Quality of our candidates should matter and that does not depend on 50%+1. I care less about the margin with which he or she gets elected. We should be interested in whether the person delivers,” Imran said in an interview.

He further argued that if indeed Malawi is to adopt the 50%+1 system, then it would be discriminatory to apply it only on the presidential candidate.

“For all I know, the president is not the only person we elect. We elect councillors and Members of Parliament also.

“For too long we have placed too much scrutiny on the president when in fact MPs and councillors are the operations people in our political system. If we want to implement 50%+1 system as a way of strengthening pur democracy, then we should apply it across the board – from the president to the MP and to the ward councillor. That is fair play for me,” he said.

According to other observers, the 50%+1 system, also known as Two Round System in some circles, exerts significant pressure on the electoral administration by requiring it to run a second election within a short time after the first.

This increases the cost of running an election and the time between the election  and declaring the result, leading to instability and uncertainty.

They add that the system leads to voter fatigue  leading to voter apathy in the second round.

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