Presidential election process: Malawi vs US

On November 8, 2016 the United States of America will elect a president and vice. The process by which America's president is elected is complex but in this column today we will some elements of the two processes.

  • Tenure of office: The US president holds office for four years and elections are held on the second Tuesday of November. In Malawi the presidential tenure is five years and elections are held on Tuesday in the third week of May. Both countries two term limits.
  • Eligibility: For the US, the aspirant must be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the US for not less than 14 years by Inauguration Day. In Malawi the aspirant should be a citizen by birth or descent and should attain the age of 35 on the day of nomination among other requirements. 
  • Voting process: In Malawi the president is elected by direct voting using the First-Past-The-Post system. In the US, people vote for their preferred candidate, and this is called the popular vote, but it is more than a popularity contest. When Americans are casting their votes for the presidential candidates, they are actually voting for electors, who will cast their votes for the candidates in what is called the Electoral College. This is a group of people who gather to cast their votes for the various presidential candidates (much like the delegates at the political party conventions). The presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each state gets all of the electoral votes for that state. In other words, if the state of XYZ has three electoral votes, it casts all of its electoral votes for the winning candidate. So if candidate A has 4,100,103 votes and Candidate B has 4,100,100 votes, Candidate A still gets all three of XYZ’s electoral votes and Candidate B gets 0. When all the Electoral College votes are counted, the president with the most votes wins. In most cases, the candidate who wins the popular vote also wins in the Electoral College. But few times it has not been the case. In 2000 George W. Bush got 50,456,062 while Albert Gore, Jr. had 50,996,582 of the popular vote. Albert Gore lost the presidency because of the Electoral College vote.
  • Assuming Office: In the US the new president doesn't take office until January 20 of the following year. If a president gets re-elected, he goes right on serving. In Malawi, the law says the president should be sworn in office within 30 days from the day of being elected.

Next week will look in detail at the Electoral College and how it functions.