Short time to advocate manifestos: Change electoral calendar

Written by  Felix Mponda

There has never been any election year since the first and seismic multi-party poll in 1994 that manifestos—a statement published by a political party or a government in which they say what their aims and policies are- have been critically digested and also gripped national attention than in 2019.

A copy of DPP manifesto A copy of DPP manifesto

The manifesto launches have all been colorful, but I won’t give any prizes to anybody who picks the best colorful and grandiose manifesto launch. Let’s do that in 2024, given God’s grace to keep us alive and witness the seventh pluralistic poll.

But with 193 constituencies-some in rough terrain with impassable roads- it looks there might not be enough time for the political players to the country to peddle their manifestos to the electorate.

Urban folks have had a good time, watching live television launches and debates from the comfort of their homes—and for some-in bars and from smartphones, thanks to technology.

But, the majority of voters are in villages, where there is no luxury of TV and not even a single bulb from a simple solar power to lit their homes. Even a radio is listened to in groups.

Given the above scenario, I am proposing to MEC to consider changing their election calendar to allow for a longer period before voting to allow politicians to sell their promises and policies to voters who will make informed choices.

Some 50 days of manifesto selling before voting is not good enough. Time is too short.

With all the powers given to MEC, this august institution might as well put on the table the following after May 21:

--an elections calendar should kick off in January in that year of voting. Thus parliament should dissolve around January 20, with full pay to May for MPs. This will give three months of official campaigning. Enough time to sell manifestos.

--Nomination of presidential, parliamentary and councillorship papers be done earlier.

--there must be proper scrutiny of candidates, and not allow time wasters in the name of democracy. Democracy is expensive business. You cannot allow even grave diggers to seek State House, hiding under the phrase “ it’s my constitutional right.”

I urge MEC go to Ghana to seek wisdom on how they go about choosing or nominating presidential candidates.

And now, allow me to pick just two things—fertiliser subsidy program and quota system-- from the manifestos of the DPP and three opposition parties: UTM, MCP and UDF.

The DPP says it will maintain FISP and the quota system, while the other three have vowed to remove the two if voted into power.

Who is saying the truth here?

This is my take: It's political suicide to just remove FISP without preparing the poor villagers about this. Besides, even if fertilizer went down as low as 5,000, where would that extreme poor villager get this cash from?

Wouldn’t fertilizer at K5,000 be gifting estates and rich farmers who will end up buying cheap fertilizer at the expense of the povo?

Have the three parties made any research on the impact of FISP, its successes and failures?

According to the World Bank, who sponsor the country’s economic reforms, most of Malawi’s poor remain locked in low productivity subsistence farming, with their poverty exacerbated by thin and distorted maize markets.

And these are the villagers who produce 80 percent of our maize.

For DPP which has been running Capital Hill the past five years, , it knows better about FISP.

It is the same with the quota system—the selection of students to public universities. The three opposition parties say they will pull the plug out of this system. The DPP says it will be status quo.

Is there any informed and latest research on the need to stop quota system and open up the valves even if it meant one district occupied all the 4,000 available places for students?

I might not be convinced the need to end quota system, but if Malawians have been properly civic-educated about this, then let’s wait and see after May 21. Truth will free us!

RVG and Flames blues

I am not much of a soccer buff, but I do follow football. Like the RVG drama.

Two years ago, this Belgium coach was recruited by FAM authorities with some flare. He was to be the coach Malawi needed.

Praised throughout his tenure, he was unceremoniously booted out last week, after patiently waiting for a renewal of his contract which was to see him make Malawi play soccer like Messi’s Barcelona.

His dramatic departure just piqued my interest. RVG plainly questioned Malawi’s ability to frequently change coaches. What is the philosophy? What is the programme? What is the development programme? What is the foundation?

More questions from RVG: How did you work in these 10 years?

He reckoned if you change a coach every year, you must have somebody who is responsible for this development programme.
He never got the answer. He was fired, so to speak. He did not want to be a popular coach who is a puppet by making popular decisions. He simply didn’t share the same vision with his technical panel composed of locals.

RVG is gone, but he has left us with a lot of food for thought. Has Malawi football got a vision? Any game plan? A manifesto? A development plan and or what RVG wanted to do?
I will start following Malawi soccer from now on in order to get the answers. RVG, we will tell you when we start playing like Barcelona.

***Views expressed in this column are personal and do not represent MBC editorial policy.

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