The Southern Region meeting on proposed electoral reforms held in Blantyre on Wednesday stirred intense debate as participants from different parties and organisations differed on several issues.
The bone of contention was on reforms to enhance political legitimacy, inclusiveness and representativeness in the election of all officials.
For instance, to ensure that the President enjoys nationwide support and legitimacy, the National Taskforce on Electoral Reforms has recommended that the standard for nomination be raised from 10 supporting signatures per District to 1000 supporting signatures in 90 percent of all districts in the country.
Paramount Chief Lundu of Chikwawa supported the recommendation, saying it will restrain unnecessary spending.
“We normally have too many unpopular candidates on the presidential race, so this new approach will automatically take them out,” he said.
However, People’s Party (PP) provincial chair for the South, Isaac Nyakamera, contested the figure, suggesting that it should be reduced to at least 500 signatures per district.
“It will be very difficult for a candidate to source the 1000 signatures in each district. I think 500 is a good number and manageable,” he said.
The Taskforce has also recommended that a successful presidential candidate should attain a minimum threshold of votes to win the election, known as a two round system (TRS).
This means that if the winning threshold is not met in the first round, a second round should be conducted between the top two candidates.
However, Traditional Authority (T/A) Machinjiri of Blantyre, said the system would be a burden to Malawi.
“Ladies and gentlemen am afraid with the current financial hiccups, we are going to recommend something we will not be able to implement,” said Machinjiri.
In his remarks, Co-Chairperson of the Taskforce, Steve Duwa expressed satisfaction with the level of debate on the recommendations.
“Another burning issue in our consultations has been on the appointment of commissioners for the Malawi Electoral Commission with many contributors recommending that MEC Commissioners be appointed by parliament and not by the president as it is now,” he said.
The Task Force’s work is also aimed at improving the coherency, integrity and adequacy of Malawi’s electoral legal framework; the impartiality, effectiveness and credibility of election administration and management; and the civic competence of citizens on electoral matters.