This yearâ€™s presidential elections in the United States, like the one which took place four years ago, has a lot to teach us Africans and others in the developing world who are still experimenting with the idea of democracy.
Four years ago, Americans for the first time elected a member of the minority group as their president. Within living memory of most of us who are over 60, African-Americans were being shot or imprisoned for campaigning non-violently for civil rights. Their famous leader, the Reverend Martin Luther King, lost his life during the non-violent struggle which he modelled on Mahatma Gandhi.
President Barack Obama has the most prestigious job in the United Sates on merit. Privilege has played no part, for he is not a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), but a black of mixed descent.
Though we Africans denounced discrimination against us on account of our race and colour, now that we rule ourselves, we do not quite shun the evils we once denounced. Those who are members of the majority in one thing or another such as tribe or religion have arrogated to themselves the best opportunities the nation offers.
So long as we practise tribalism or regionalism, we are not just tampering with democracy, but we are slowing down development. Development can be accelerated only if the most able members of our nation are given responsibilities to handle the most difficult programmes regardless of where they come from or what dialect they speak.
Another lesson is the manner the Americans treat victory and defeat at the polls; the victorious side does not jeer at the defeated side, neither does the defeated side cause unnecessary trouble. The elections are just like a friendly football match.
In many African elections, the defeated party usually accuses the victorious of rigging the elections even when third-party observers testify that the elections have been free and fair. The most notorious example is what happened in the Cote dâ€™Ivoire last year. Disputed elections resulted in bloodshed and former president Laurent Gbagbo is now a prisoner awaiting trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity. The violence which erupted in Kenyaâ€™s elections in the previous elections hopefully will not be repeated in the next elections.
On formation of Labour Party
The formation of the Labour Party (LP) out of the wrangles within the United Democratic Front (UDF) has fragmented the southern vote further. Since voters tend to vote for a party which they believe to belong to their region, one wonders how PP, DPP, UDF and LP will share the votes among the Southern Region voter.
Presumably, in naming their party as Labour Party, Jumbe and colleagues want to proclaim that their party will be socialist, a party of the common people. I wish they had called it Social Democratic Party.
In Malawi, there is not much class division. We do not have a large population of what Karl Marx called the bourgeoisie (businesspeople) and the proletariat (people who have nothing to sell but their labour). Most common people are in rural areas cultivating a few hectares. The interests of the rural poor are not identical with those of the urban poor. Usually, the monophony Admarc has bought the produce of the rural people at low prices in order to keep prices of goods in urban centres affordable. It would be the object of the Social Democratic Party to try and compromise the interest of these communities.
This is said by the way. The main worry is about the implications of the Southern Region four parties on the general and presidential elections. Rest assured, we will have a hung Parliament with all the paraphernalia of instability.
Several times I have proposed that the Malawi Constitution should provide for re-run where none of the presidential candidates wins at least 50 percent of the votes. Why are commentators silent on this?