What a stroke of genius it would be for Malawians finally to recognise that political parties have essentially become obstacles to good governance in Malawi, and to put them in their place by voting for a candidate with no political party to appease during his term of leadership!
Since some people seem to simply take political parties for granted and have never questioned their genesis or necessity, it is probably important to share some thoughts on where political parties came from and why they exist.
The primary purpose for a political party is voter mobilisation.
A political party is a group of voters organized to support certain public policies. The aim of a political party is to elect officials who will try to carry out the party’s policies.
A political party offers candidates for public office. It sets out positions on issues that may range from war and taxes to how children should be educated. When people in a democracy disagree about what the government should do, voters express their opinions by voting for the candidates that most closely reflect their views. Political parties provide a way for voters to easily identify a candidate’s positions.
Political parties as we know them did not begin to develop until the late 1600s. The ancient Greeks, who were pioneers in developing democracy, had no organized political parties in the modern sense. The senate of the ancient Romans had two groups that represented people with different interests — the Patricians and the Plebeians. The Patricians represented noble families. The Plebeians represented the wealthy merchants and the middle class. Although these two groups often mingled, at times they voted as factions, or parties, on particular issues that were important to the groups they represented.
For many centuries after the fall of Rome (AD 476), the people of Europe had little voice in politics. Thus there were no true political parties — only factions that supported one noble family or another. Political parties developed as representative assemblies gained power. In England, this change began after what was called the Popish Plot of 1678.
Armed with this historical knowledge , it should not be difficult for any thinking Malawian to admit that none of our political parties represent any known political ideology or any set of policies that they have in the past implimented, or would implement in the future.
The bitter truth is that Malawian political parties have one agenda and one agenda only: to get in power and raid public coffers.
In this regard then, the only need for political parties when it comes to electioneering is for voter mobilisation. This means that if an aspiring candidate can find a way to mobilise voters without forming a political party, then the need for a political party becomes a redundant one.
In this age of technology, social media and advances in transportation facilities, such a move is possible and necessary. This then is the direction our politics must take because Malawi will not develop unless and and until we ditch the idea of blindly following the political party model with its legacy of patronage and corruption.
If we stick to voting for our leaders on the basis of political party allegiance, nepotism, patronage and corruption will continue to be the unholy trinity of evils destroying the political fabric of this country and sabotaging its development prospects, creating a collection of ‘yes men’ whose votes have been ‘bought’, together with a youth that has no future, and a powerless opposition.
As we have seen in PP and MCP, opposition Party MPs are also open to the influence of patronage. It is quite wrong to assume that Whips in an opposition Party have nothing to offer in the way of rewards.
I have met many people who aggressively defend the political party model and patronage in all its forms because they say they make for strong government and political stability. But the price of patronage is a serious lack of accountability and nothing less than the wholesale prostitution of the democratic process. The result is a culture in Lilongwe that punishes integrity and moral conviction.
Instead of rewarding those with the courage to tell the leaders what they believe is right, the system has told people to speak against their political conscience for things they do not believe will help the country.
The ultimate role model for a ‘rising star’ MP in Malawi is a morally feeble politician, who looks good and sounds convincing, never makes trouble, and always does as he or she is told without questioning the leadership. I have seen people with doctorates and advanced degrees from UK and USA reduced to morally straw men emasculated of any sound opinion and courage to tell Peter Mutharika where he’s going wrong. A whole generation of MPs has been encouraged to sell their souls for hope of a ministerial appointment or an appointment to this or that board.
Because of the political party model and the patronage it produces, the lips of many of our brightest representatives are sealed except for words of adulation and flattery, or for trotting out the party line.
Whatever happened to integrity?
It can be argued that collective responsibility is essential in any board, business or government. But where does loyalty end and honesty begin? It is hardly surprising then that the public say they hardly believe a word of the statement that Ministers make. Even if the facts they give are true, what often comes across is a sickening lack of sincerity written all over their embarrassed faces, although some are quite good at acting.
A further result of patronage abuse has been a loss of morale and direction among the majority who are not in office
So, since the current crop of politicians and those aspiring to be president have already compromised their integrity by accepting promising huge rewards from the public purse to those party members and supporters that help them get into office, and others have been bought with promises of jobs in government, or in parastatals, our collective responsibility as Malawians is to overthrow this immoral setup and help mobilise voters for a candidate that will not have any political party baggage to take with him to plot Number One.
The combined attractions of money and patronage have created a culture which is unhelpful at best and corrupting at worst.
My Uncommon Sense tells me that the time is now to abandon political parties and the political party model for our electoral process. The time is now for Malawi to have a candidate with no political party and only the Malawian public to appease!
Let’s not forget that it was only when late Bingu wa Mutharika had no political party to appease- between 2004 and 2009- that he actually displayed the best leadership and Malawi had its best years ever in the multiparty dispensation.