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Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

41 2.3.1 Challenges to

41 2.3.1 Challenges to the Democratic Experiment The challenges facing the Malawian democratic experiment can only be understood within the context of the existing struggles for domination by various political parties in Malawi. This struggle was reflected in the hotly contested elections of 1999 and 2004. Further, parliament has proved to be another site of contest between the legislature and the executive following the 2004 election. These contests have deeply affected the political and economic life of ordinary Malawians. At the foundation of these contests, inside and outside parliament and government, are deep-seated challenges five of which are discussed in this section. The first challenge is regionalism and the constantly shifting character of political alliances among political parties. This factor is linked very closely to regionalism as discussed above. Like many countries in Africa, in Malawi regional and ethnic identities have become political cleavages as they provide the means of political mobilization. Regional cleavages have proved strong enough to warrant political representation in the National Assembly. Malawian elections are characterised by pronounced divisions along regional lines. The above problem is exacerbated by the lack of distinguishing political ideology among Malawi‟s political parties. The distinguishing feature of Malawi‟s political parties is not ideology. In fact, as Khaila and Chibwana (2005) note: Now all political parties share the tenets of liberalism in both politics and the economy. Their differences cannot be pinpointed with a reference to substantially divergent values and objectives. Everybody is committed to multiparty democracy, respecting human rights and the market economy. (p.3).

42 Khaila and Chibwana (2005) noted that these shifting alliances are motivated by an inordinate lust for wealth. This leads to the desire to control economic resources. These alliances enable those who would otherwise not have such access to resources to come into the loop and exploit local resources. Driven by such greed, political party leaders at the top have not been exactly open and democratic when making decisions to enter or leave alliances. Such undemocratic practices have led to divisions and openly fought out schisms in the three main political parties resulting in fragmentation especially in the run up to the 2004 election and immediately after. The second factor affecting the growth of democracy in Malawi is the poverty that is so endemic in Malawi. It is generally agreed among scholars (Posner, 1995; Tsoka, 2002; Khaila and Chibwana, 2005) that poverty poses a serious threat to Malawi‟s democracy. Low incomes and a high illiteracy rate, poor information and high HIV/AIDS prevalence create fertile grounds for self-serving politicians to exploit the people politically. Tsoka (2002) particularly notes that: . . . most people are pre-occupied with keeping body and soul together; participation in politics is secondary in survival strategies. As President Muluzi, is often heard to say: „People cannot eat democracy.‟(p. 5). The third factor affecting the consolidation of democracy is the continued weakness of institutions and structures of democratic governance. At the fore of these is the MEC‟s continued maladministration of elections. The outcome of both the 1999 and 2004 elections have been greatly disputed with both cases ending in the High Court for arbitration. In both elections, the MEC has been accused of maladministration and outright favouritism of the government and the UDF. This state of affair can cause voter apathy as citizens may begin to feel that their vote does not really count. The government has continued to interfere with other structures of governance such as the

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