Stakeholders hold national conference on electoral reforms

On Thursday, December 11, 2014 electoral stakeholders gathered at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe for a two-day conference to discuss electoral reforms as the country prepares for the next elections in 2014.

The conference was organised by the electoral reforms task force that is co-chaired by Malawi Electoral Commission and the Malawi Electoral Support Network with membership drawn from government departments, civil society and development partners.

In his speech during the opening, guest of honour, Minister of Lands and Housing, Hon Bright Msaka urged the delegates to continuously strive to improve the electoral system.

“In my wanderings across the globe, I have never encountered a democracy that is not in need of reform. Everywhere on the globe, citizens in all nations, are striving for changes and improvements in the way they govern themselves,” he said.

Hon Msaka, who is also Deputy Chairperson of the Cabinet Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said all democracies were different from one another.

“However, one thing is imperative in all democracies. All democracies must have elections that are the basis for the power to govern. And it seems to me that, however well governed a country might be, it is not a democracy if those that are governing are not placed in power by the will of the people. Elections are therefore the fundamental bedrock of any democracy. 

“We should not unduly fashion our democracy after the democracy of another country. No democracy is inferior to another if it serves well the best interests of the people it was designed to serve. We should strive for a form of democracy that serves the best interests of all our citizens,” he said.

Hon Msaka urged the delegates to learn from the observer reports and draw what will serve the best interests of the nation.

“Over the years we have learnt important lessons in the way we conduct our election. We know what works. And we know what causes strife. We have had the benefit of the wisdom from several Elections Observer Groups. We must draw upon these lessons to improve our electoral system.

“We must retain what works. We must discard that which causes strife. We must change that which is fundamental, while ignoring that which is sentimental. And we must learn new skills, including addition arithmetic,” he said.

In his speech MEC chairman, Justice Maxon Mbendera SC urged the participants to critically look at the challenges faced during the May 2014 Tripartite Elections and provide solutions that will perfect the future.

The MEC chairman said some of the challenges faced were due to lack of time to prepare adequately as the Commission had only 10 months to prepare for the first ever Tripartite Elections.

British High Commissioner, Michael Nevin said the meeting was timely as the interest in electoral reforms was high and before other issues took immediacy.

He said the electoral reform should be part and parcel of a wider reform process that the country needed and which the government had committed itself to deliver.

The conference was financially supported by the UKaid through the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Speeches and presentations made during the conference can be accessed Here.

The members of the taskforce are Malawi Electoral Commission, Malawi Human Rights Commission, National Initiative for Civic Education, United Nations Development Programme, Public Affairs Committee, National Democratic Institute, Centre for Multiparty Democracy, Malawi Law Commission, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, NGO Gender Coordination Network, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, and Malawi Electoral Support Network.

The task force is co-chaired by the Malawi electoral Commission and the Malawi Electoral Support Network.