..only for presidency, not MPs or Councillors
By Malawi Electoral Commission
This week, our focus is on the election of the President using the new electoral system popularly known as the “50%+1” system (fifty percent plus one vote), also referred to as the two-round system.
The “50%+1” system is a majoritarian electoral approach, wherein the victor is required to amass more than 50 percent plus one vote (50%+1) of the total valid votes. In a scenario with only two presidential candidates, a second election is unnecessary, as one of the two is likely to secure at least 50% of the valid votes. Conversely, if more than two candidates exist and no candidate achieves this threshold in the initial election, a second election is held within 60 days from the declaration of the result, featuring the first and second contenders.
Prior to 2019, the winner of a presidential election was determined using the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, wherein the candidate with the most votes, irrespective of the percentage, was declared the victor. However, in 2020, a court interpretation established that the president should be elected by an absolute majority, i.e., the winner must garner 50 percent plus one vote of the total valid votes.
Consequently, the National Assembly amended the Constitution to introduce supporting legislation. Section 80(2) now states:
The President shall be elected by a majority of more than fifty percent of the valid votes cast through direct, universal and equal suffrage and where a majority of more than fifty percent is not obtained by any candidate in the first poll, a second poll shall be held within sixty days after declaration of the results in the first poll, in accordance with an Act of Parliament.”
There is often confusion about calculating the 50%+1 threshold. It’s crucial to emphasize that this calculation is based on the total valid votes, not the total registered voters or total votes cast. Subtracting the void votes from the total votes cast provides the figure for the (50%+1) threshold. For example, with 2,000,000 total registered voters and 1,200,000 votes cast, of which 200,000 are void votes, the total valid votes amount to 1,000,000. This implies that a winning candidate needs to secure 50 percent plus one vote of the valid votes, which is 500,001 votes – not 1,000,001 based on total registered voters or 600,001 based on total votes cast. This clarifies that a candidate can assume office with a lower percentage of votes against total registered voters but an absolute majority of total valid votes.
It’s important to note that the “50%+1” system in Malawi is exclusive to presidential elections. Parliamentary and Local Government Elections will continue to employ the First-Past-The-Post System, where the candidate with the most votes wins the seat.
The law has also stipulated the provision of security for the candidate and running mate during the second presidential election until the results are declared.