Chapter review by Rodwell Katundu
Review of Chapter 7: “Malawi’s Choice of Electoral System and Reform Agenda Quandary,” by Earnest Thindwa (pp. 171 – 196)
This chapter is significant for contemporary Malawian politics as it sought to explain not only the rationale for simple plurality as an electoral system of choice for Malawi and attempts to reform the same but also to analyze the roles and motivations of various actors in the electoral reform agenda and prospects for reforms. The questions that have been addressed by this chapter include the following: What was the rationale for both the choice of First Past The Post (FPTP) and what has been its effect on regime legitimacy? What was fueling the attempt to move away from plurality and what kind of reforms have been suggested? Who was driving the reform agenda and what were the motivations? What are the prospects for the reform agenda and its implications? These questions are distinct and important in understanding the politics of electoral reforms in Malawi and the interests of some stakeholders. In addition, this chapter uses the New Institutionalism Theory in explaining the politics behind these reforms. Lastly, this chapter clearly emphasizes an important role played by the judiciary in turning the tides against anti-electoral reforms.
However, there are three main areas that this chapter overlooked in its analysis. Firstly, the chapter did not factor in public perceptions of the former electoral system (FPTP) and how this contributed to the survival of the system. The argument here is that there is nothing said about the general public, whether they were in support or against it. Secondly, the chapter does not state the extent to which the new system is going to compel the largely ethnic-based political parties in Malawi to evolve from regional political ventures to national parties. Lastly, this chapter fails to critically address the contradictions in defining the term “majority” based on the intentions of the framers of the Malawi constitution by the rulings of the 1999 Supreme Court of Appeal Election Case, and the 2020 Presidential Election Case Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal. Although the 2020 constitutional and Supreme court of appeal ruling used the law authoritative dictionary in defining the term majority, these three rulings were based on the assumption of the original intentions of the framers of the Constitution. The problem is to understand who is wrong and who is right between the 1999 Supreme Court of Appeal ruling and the 2020 Election Case rulings as all are based on the said assumptions. This could have been clearly explained here.