Africa-Press – Malawi. I would like to urge all Members of Parliament to reject the 50% +1 bill that seeks to amend the Malawi Constitution. This bill endeavors to bulldoze a case law into our constitution so that a winning presidential candidate must obtain at least 50% of the cast votes. I therefore beg to reject the bill based on the following 10 convincing reasons:
Sections 7,8 and 9 of the Malawi Constitution stipulate that the three arms of government have separate duties and powers. The Judiciary therefore has no mandate to bulldoze a case law to become a constitutional law. The 50%+1 was simply the wrong interpretation of the term ‘majority’ by the judges and Parliament already rejected such a bill.
There are more pertinent issues to be tabled in Parliament but redebating on a bill that was recently rejected is a waste of energy and time. Instead, the equivalent relevant bill must be tabled which will then explicitly define the word ‘majority’ to mean first past the post or simple majority in our constitution. Period.
The lower Constitutional court on 2019 presidential elections case acted ultra vires by overriding the decisions of the higher court, supreme court of appeal, on the interpretation of the word ‘majority’. Although such erroneous interpretation and procedure were upheld later by a different panel of the supreme court of appeal, Parliament is not obligated to adopt such an anomalous case law.
Words take different meanings depending on the context. The constitutional court judges committed an argumentum ad dictionarium fallacy when they just pulled the meaning of the word ‘majority’ from black law dictionary without considering its contextual usage in our constitution.
This is the same reason they want to change our constitution to accommodate the wrong 50%+1 in the constitution because it was not there in the first place.
There are many various applications of the word ‘majority’ including first past the post or simple majority, at least 50% majority, at least two-thirds majority, 75% majority, unanimity and other variants.
The fact that our constitution did not include how run off elections can be conducted substantiates that the meaning of majority in our constitution is first past the post or simple majority. Therefore, there is no need to amend the constitution.
The same term ‘majority’ will have two different meanings within the same tripartite elections. That is 50% + 1 for presidential election at the same time first past the post or simple majority for Parliamentary and councilors’ elections. This inconsistency will create absurdity and confusion.
Tonse alliance government has proved that 50% + 1 system is a non-starter. It is only used as a pawn to push preferred candidates to victory. In other words, 50% + 1 system only enforces electoral alliances while the running and administration of government uses simple past the post. For example, the current government uses mostly Malawi Congress Party manifesto disregarding others.
It is difficult for small political parties to win elections alone when using the 50% +1 system. As a result, small parties are forced to enter into electoral alliances in which larger political parties still have lion share influence. In this way, small parties die a natural death eventually. Good democracy must promote minorities too.
In an election where a presidential candidate gets say 51% of the cast votes, the other 49% is still statistically a big percentage to be ignored. Just as a simple majority, there is still a chance that a large percentage of the voters will be ruled by an individual whom they did not vote for.
In a poor country like Malawi, it is expensive to implement the 50% +1 system. If in the first round, no candidate gets at least 50% of the votes, the best two candidates go for the second round. Besides the extra expenses, voter apathy may also contribute to undesirable candidates emerging as a winner.
A good democracy must promote diversity and minority. With 50% +1, it will be an uphill for an independent candidate to win elections against grand coalitions of political parties. As a result, weak candidates will still win elections as long as they form grand electoral political party alliances. And Malawi will continue experiencing leadership problems.
It is therefore recommended that a bill should be formulated that will amend the constitution to explicitly define the term majority as first past the post or simple majority which will be applicable to presidential, member of Parliament and councilors tripartite general elections.