As we approach the 2014 Tripartite Elections, it is evident that many political parties in Malawi have begun to engage themselves in activities aimed at mobilising support from the electorate in order to capture State power. Indeed, almost all the major parties have selected their presidential candidates, and thus far the recurring theme of the campaign season is the development agenda where focus is on economic development.
It has been well established that sustainable economic development can only manifest when accompanied by social and political development. In this regard, the effectiveness and efficiency of institutions are key development indicators, as well as important measures to ensure the consolidation of democracy in the country.
However, the weak state of the legislative arm of government remains ignored by our political leadership despite the hindrance it poses to many development initiatives undertaken by government. As a liberal democracy, the doctrine of separation of powers has been entrenched in the Malawian Constitution which entails that the three branches of government remain independent of one another but each branch should use its power to police the limits of the others.
Specifically, there must be a balance of power between the Executive and the Legislature, and the two must ‘check’ each other. Although credit can be awarded for observing judicial independence, the imbalance of power between the Executive and Legislature goes beyond appalling. The Executive branch continually dominates the Legislature, hence retarding aspects of oversight and vertical accountability. Indeed, it seems as though Parliament has been reduced to being a support system of the Executive and its often misguided endeavours.
Blame here can be assigned to several players. Members of Parliament are largely self-interested with no apparent sense of responsibility towards their constituents. Seventy-five percent of the Malawian population resides in rural areas whose development crucially depends on how well their MPs champion their interests at the central government level.
Political parties also ought to be reprimanded for the patrimonial party politics and “Big Man Syndrome” culture which they drag into government upon gaining power. True democracy cannot be consolidated without political will, therefore, it is high time party leaders changed their attitudes and pursued an approach to governance for the unification and socio-economic development of all Malawians.
Most importantly, the public and civil society organisation’s need to accept blame for the role we play in enabling such atrocities. As citizens of a democratic State, power ultimately rests in our hands, and it is our civic duty to ensure that government governs to serve our interests, and we must forever remain active in prescribing the Malawian public interest.
That said, it is essential that as the forthcoming elections draw nearer, all those who constitute the electorate should heavily scrutinise the ideas and proposals brought forth by our political hopefuls, paying close attention to both presidential as well as parliamentary candidates. Political parties need to revise their methods of nominating and selecting candidates for Parliament to ensure that those who are willing and capable prevail above all others.
Similarly, independent candidates should contest with a people’s agenda at heart, and not selfish reasons as has been experienced in the past. The Malawian nation can only thrive when Government and the people work together to achieve growth and development. We must not forget that our economy is still vulnerable and weak. Failure of governance at this juncture is simply not an option. n
The author is a third year political leadership student at the Catholic University of Malawi.