The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has found itself between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the government was fully in support of the electoral reforms when various donors funded the exercise at the Malawi Law Commission but now, the shoe is on the other foot.
While the government has not come out clear in the past on its position, several remarks from high profile individuals including ministers has made it known that Electoral Reforms Bills should not be discussed in Parliament under any circumstances.
The government must be kicking itself and wishing they had never made a public commitment to table them in this ongoing Parliament meeting.
The one organisation that has steadfastly championed the electoral reforms, the bills in particular, has been the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), that quasi-religious body credited with being in the forefront of fighting for democratic rights before and after 1994.
Now, PAC is not just an ordinary institution, it is made of religious bodies, some mild others not so apologetic like the Catholic and Livingstonia Synod.
The DPP should not have been shocked that the first clergy to announce its backing of the December 13 planned nationwide marches to demand the tabling of the bills should be the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church is revered in this country, not for having the largest membership of any denomination in Malawi but for the actions of 1992 when its bishops risked their lives to say the one thing that Malawians had been failing to voice out from the time that Kamuzu Banda was noted as a dictator.
The Catholic Church has come under fire for mixing religion with politics, understandably considering how shortsighted Malawian politicians can be when it suits.
What the DPP in their castigation of the church actions did not foresee was one of their own, if he can be called that, vice-President Saulos Chilima being embroiled in the December 13 saga.
But here is something the DPP are forgetting, the SKC in church is not the SKC at Capital Hill and the DPP should learn to differentiate the two.
Recently, the Kenyan judge that nullified the elections refused to preside over a case on a Saturday because he belongs to the Seventh Day Adventist denomination, telling all that he would never compromise church with work because this is what principled people do.
Chilima, making church announcements in the church he has been congregating before and after he became veep urging Malawians to exercise their Constitutional right does not necessarily mean that he agrees with the action.
He is just that at church, an ordinary man carrying out his liturgical role in reading the day’s announcements. In a civilised nation, this would not be an issue.
But then Malawi is not that nation. This is why those in the party are agitating for Chilima to be censured or make a public proclamation that he erred in carrying out his duties at the church.
But those who were in that church and know how to separate church from politics know for sure that that the VP was not telling Malawians to protest against his own government.
But now we have learnt that the DPP believes the electoral reforms and 50+1 in particular is a waste of money and that the money for a re-run could be best used for constructing roads and buying medicines in hospitals.
The fears of the DPP on the electoral reforms are not clear. Is it just 50+1 or the proposal that swearing in of the president should take place after 30 days, or perhaps that the 28 seats reserved for women candidates would be swept by the opposition?
But going by Minister of Civic Education Grace Chiumia’s remark calling on people to reject the electoral reforms, what the DPP fears the most is losing the cushy seat and they will sacrifice anyone in their path to avoid that supposed inevitability.