The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) launched the calendar for the 2019 Tripartite Elections this week with outstanding issues that will render the polls just another democratic exercise lacking credibility.
Electoral observers made a litany of recommendations after 2014 among them changes to the electoral laws. But now we know how that ended: The government which benefitted from the disorganised electoral system and legal framework decided to leave things alone.
By now people would have been preparing for a 50+1 voting system and excitement would have been palpable that finally a president elected with the majority of Malawians will govern with confidence.
The European Union (EU) electoral observer mission pointed to voter registration, election day preparations and results management, as well as malpractices during the campaign, including abuse of State resources as the main challenges in the conduct of the polls in 2014.
It is 2018 and little has been done to change the status quo, a hapless Parliament failed to heed the calls of the majority of Malawians who contributed to the Law Commission report.
In 2018, opposition parties should not be moaning about the despicable behaviour of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Where were they when the Communications Act was being tabled? What did they use the opportunity to engage with Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) for? Where is the Committee on Statutory Corporations and Commissions in all this?
Parliament has spent the past four years making empty threats against MBC with little action, the results of such dilly-dallying is the kind of programmes that are on the radio and television right now.
If Malawi Congress Party (MCP) were to win the 2019 elections, the lukewarm manner in which they have treated MBC is an indication that they would not make any effort to turn the State broadcaster into the public broadcaster that it should be.
Having elected a meagre 17 percent of women into Parliament in 2014, the 50-50 movement should have started on the day the results of the elections were announced.
But when the incumbent 32 members of Parliament (MPs) are the first to fear competition from women aspirants, should we expect to do better than 257 female candidates out of 1 292 as it was in 2014?
Where were the voices of the political parties when the Special Law Commission proposed an additional 28 district seats specifically for women? Where was the 50-50 movement the past four years?
Parliament last year passed what should be an elaborate and comprehensive Political Parties Bill which has since been gazetted but after so many years of inserting and deleting provisions in it, 2017 was just too close to 2019 for the law to make any meaningful impact.
In 2019, voters should expect another long convoluted ballot paper with candidates simply trying their luck, if the Political Parties Act does not come into effect to sieve the chaff.
Even as the law currently stands, new political parties are sprouting up all over the place and the same MPs who enacted a law banning handouts are at this very moment in the frontline giving out the same to keep their seats.
The Electoral Commission (amendment) Bill currently before Parliament should have breathed new life into the conduct of the commission during elections but with 15 months to elections, there is no agreement on who should appoint commissioners, the executive or the political parties.
The only breath of fresh air in the 2019 will the biometric voter registration which is anticipated to reduce the cost of the polls, no hiring cameras or lamps from Zimbabwe.
Without these, the 2019 Tripartite Election promise to be just another democratic activity that Malawians will have ticked off in this dispensation. n