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Majority in the Multiparty Democracy: A case of Malawi elections

By Rick Dzida

1.0 Introduction

Etymologically, the word ‘majority’ comes from a Latin word called ‘maior’ which literally means ‘greater’.

The word majority takes different meanings depending on the context in which it is used.

2.0 Types of majority

Ideally, there are two main types of majority : Simple majority and absolute majority.

2.1 Simple majority or first past the post

This happens when a candidate obtains the greater number of votes than any other candidate in the elections.

Example 1

2014 presidential results indicated the following:

Peter Mutharika 36%, Lazarus Chakwera 27%, Joyce Banda 20% , Atupele Muluzi 13% and others.

In this scenario, Peter Mutharika got greater number of votes than any other candidate . Using simple past the post , Peter Mutharika was declared the winner. This was legitimate and it was according to the Constitution of Malawi.

Example 2

Bills in the Malawi National Assembly uses the first past the post for them to be passed.

Example 3

Both local government elections and parliamentary elections follow a simple majority rule to determine the winner.

2.2 Absolute majority (50+1), or Super majority

This is when a candidate gets over 50% of cast votes plus one vote

Example 3

In the just ended elections, Lazarus Chakwera got 59.3% , Peter Mutharika 39.9% and Peter Kuwani 0.74%.

Dr. Lazarus Chakwera amassed over 50% of the cast votes and he was declared a winner using 50+1 electoral system.

Note that it is possible in Malawi for a candidate to amass over 50% without any electoral Alliance.

In 2009 , though using the simple majority rule, Bingu got 66% and John Tembo obtained only 30% of the votes.

Bingu in 2009 got more votes alone than what Chakwera in 2020 got from a combined effort of 9 political parties.

3.0 Other forms of absolute majority (Super majority)

There are many variations of absolute majority, a scenario where a winner is declared or a proposition is passed after amassing at least 50 % of the votes cast.

3.1 Two thirds majority

Malawi constitution required 2/3 majority for it to be amended by members of parliament.

3.2 Any percentage between 50% and 99

For example, Florida constitution requires three fifths (60%) majority for it to be changed.

3.3 One hundred percentage or unanimous decision

This is when all voters agree with a particular proposition

3.4 Majority of the entire membership

The majority is calculated based on the total number of members of the group including those who did not vote and those who were absent.

In the case of the electoral system, majority is calculated based on the total number of voters registered and on the number of people who cast their votes.

3.5 Majority of the fixed membership

Majority is calculated based on the total number of the established fixed membership of the deliberative assembly.

Rick Dzida

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not necessarily of The Maravi Post or Editor

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