Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Malawi should learn from UK Elections

Someone recently said “if the same results of the UK elections were posted in Malawi, Brown would have been sworn in on Friday (a day after voting), Cameron arrested and Nick Clegg would have rushed to challenge the results in court.” Such is the case of Malawian politics in particular and Africa in general. Every time we have elections, we expect three things to happen; a rush in swearing in the ‘winner’, arresting opposition candidates for various reasons, mostly treason and the ‘loser’ challenging the results in court.

The recent UK elections offer three very good lessons to a Malawian politician and one who is aspiring to stand in the future elections.

1. A battle of ideologies not character assassination

Throughout the campaign it was clear that the three main parties believed in different ideologies and they were prepared to implement them if elected. It is very easy to distinguish one party from the other based on what policies they have on various issues like, immigration, education, political reform and the economy. Voters were given a chance to see the candidates debate on the policies that they believe. They had 3 live television debates.
In Malawi, the only thing that differentiates party A and party C is the name and the leaders. They don’t have clearly spelt ideologies or policies they subscribe to. In fact all the campaign rallies are almost similar. Just making empty promises and giving them handouts.

2. Acceptance of results

United Kingdom’s May 6 elections produced no outright winner because no one got the required 326 MP’s majority. All the contesting parties respected this outcome and they patiently waited for the next course of action. It was clear that the coalition meant that parties with different ideologies coming together to form the next government. All the negotiations were centered on what to change in the good interests of the country.

In the history of African politics, very few politicians have had the guts to digest the outcome of an election. Acceptance of results remains a challenge even in the countries we thought have mature democracies. A good example is 2007 elections in Kenya.

3. Transparency

The whole elections process was transparent even to an observer like me who is many miles away from UK. The campaigning period, the voting process, counting and announcement of the results were all transparent. Opposition parties were given airtime on the public radio and television. f course there were some problems which are normal in every election.

In Malawi, politicians are bosses and are not always accountable to us, the voters. In the run up to elections they make decision that only favor them or the candidates they like. The appointment of electoral commissions, the use of public resources and manipulation of traditional leaders do not level the playing field. What is expected of us is to keep quite and watch as the events unfold just like one legal advisor said that we gave them the mandate to run the government for the next five years so we should sit back and let them govern.