It cannot be disputed that a ballot paper is one of the most important elements of any election. It therefore comes naturally to politicians that their positioning on the ballot paper can play a role in how the electorate executes their voting duties.
We are reminded of how former President, late Bingu wa Mutharika settled for “Bingu” as his ballot name and resultantly appeared on top of the list of candidates in 2009. Some pundits viewed this move as a deliberate ploy to coax the voters who are believed to offer preference to those on top.
When Bingu made his decision, some quarters attacked him of initiating a sinister ploy. The noise however did not change a thing and the election went on as planned. The departed leader carried the day.
Recently, the issue of ballot papers made headlines again after Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for some amendment that include the banning of first names and epithets on the ballot paper during elections.
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The issue drew mixed reactions from several quarters but opposition parties ended up with strained eyebrows as they raised them higher than anyone else. To them, the proposals are aimed at giving President Joyce Banda electoral favour as she will appear top if the new arrangement is implemented.
This is where it dawned on me that over the past couple of years names have been tampered with without the masses noticing. Peter Mutharika changed to Authur Peter Mutharika and Friday Jumbe metamorphosed to Anderson Friday Jumbe.
I still wonder why Atupele needs an addition of Austin as the former suffices to be top of the latter. (May be the lad can be excused out of the whole name-changing game)
There is a strong feeling among politicians that top spot gives them prominence and visibility. This can be disputed from many angles as it might also reflect failure to civic educate voters on exactly what they need to do to vote for them.
Countries like Ghana have their own way of doing things. Names of party candidates are thrown in a lot and a draw is conducted by electoral authorities to position candidates.
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Whatever the criteria used, truth remains that winners are not determined by where they are positioned but what and how they sell themselves to the voters in form of manifesto.
If candidates do their homework right, they can dictate the voters’ actions regardless of their position on the ballot paper.
Sarcasm has it that candidates worth winning an election can still win even if their names are absent from the ballot paper.
Sarcasm localized; Even if the whole ballot paper has Kamuzu Chibambo on it, I don’t expect him to win an election because those who want to vote for Joyce Banda, James Nyondo and Mark Katsonga will simply boycott the election. (I don’t think First Past The Post can be applied with Chibambo’s 200 votes nationwide)
All MEC is trying to do is put things in order. You don’t want one dude to wake up and decide that he will be called Alibaba or Amtchona just because they want to be on top. Everyone must use their official names. That’s sanity at its best.
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Having said this, Malawians must just stick to electoral rules and play their game in accordance to the Constitution. To have someone questioning MEC’s proposals just reflects an act of fear and unpreparedness.
MEC is independent that is why some weeks ago President Banda reversed her decision on Khumbo Kachali’s role at the institution. That same independence that the President observed is what has made the institution independently present their proposals so we must respect it as such.
Those who are not ready for the 2014 battle should just say so not wasting time blaming President Joyce Banda for a decision made in a meeting she was not part of.
Let 2014 come and let the best candidate win.