A new Afrobarometer survey on democracy in Africa has shown a consistent decline in demand for democracy in Malawi.
Political analysts have since attributed the low demand for and perceived low supply of democracy to lack of transparency by governments and citizens’ poor understanding of the true meaning of democracy.
According to the survey, dated February 2019, only 39 percent of Malawians demand democracy although 62 percent support the governance system.
The survey indicates that demand for democracy between 2011 and 2013 was at 54 percent, declining to 49 percent between 2014 and 2015, and going down further to 39 percent between 2016 and 2018.
It further shows that the perceived supply of democracy is at 25 percent among Malawians while a whopping 87 percent are against military rule. 17 percent of Malawians are said to be dissatisfied democrats while 22 percent are satisfied.
The country falls below average in all ratings except for rejection of military rule, where it has raked in 87 percent against the continental average of 72 percent. The average score for democracy demand is 42 percent, perceived supply is at 34 percent while support is 68 percent.
Other countries whose demand for democracy is on the decline in the region are Zimbabwe, South Africa and Lesotho.
In a telephone interview yesterday, a University of Malawi’s Chancellor College political analyst Joseph Chunga said the democracy survey measures the extent to which people really think democracy should be respected and be upheld.
He said the poor demand of democracy is a result of government failure to open up.
Said Chunga: “Much as we have this official label of democracy, not only in Malawi but also in several African countries, many of these governments have not opened up. The leadership still maintains same tendencies that characterises some authoritarian regimes.”
He added that there is a gap between what people expected when they voted for multiparty democracy and what has been actualised.
Governance expert Rafiq Hajat in a separate interview attributed the low democracy demand despite increased support for the same to lack of political participation for the majority of the citizenry.
He said the playing field in politics is not levelled, with a few elites taking control while the majority remain passive.
Said Hajat: “First thing is to know how many Malawians know democracy; obviously most people do not know. What we have is an oligarchy, where a select few with resources are in control and obviously there is tension. So, what you see is rampant corruption, abuse of power and so on.”
The report, titled Democracy in Africa: Demand, Supply and the Dissatisfied Democratic, states that the results carry both positive and negative implications for the state of democracy in Africa.
“While Africans’ assessments’ of the state of democratic governance in their own country tend to align with expert ratings, many people overrate the quality of their democracy.
“And while the public in most countries say they receive less democracy than they desire, in several other societies, more people think they are being supplied with democracy than actually want it,” reads the report in part.
The survey was done in 34 countries where overall, the average African prefers democratic rule with 68 percent saying democracy is the best form of government.