BLANTYRE—Democratic standards within Malawi’s political parties are “deteriorating” and the sooner something was done about it the better, rights groups said on Monday.
In a joint statement, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for Development of People (Cedep) echoed the call by Catholic bishops in the pastoral letter Signs of the Times
issued in 2010, urging political parties in Malawi to embrace democracy by providing “ways and means to make it possible for all members to participate fully and give aspirants the opportunity to freely contest for key positions.”
The groups said people of goodwill had expressed similar views but “if the events of the recent past are anything to go by, it is evident that the call for intra-party democracy has consistently fallen on deaf ears” and accused both the ruling and opposition parties – they haven't held conventions - of failing “to adhere to tenets” of the parties’ own constitutions.
CHRR and Cedep said “the protracted power struggle between factions in the United Democratic Front (UDF)” and “the issue of succession in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), not to mention the blatant political machinations within Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to rid the party of all potential challenge to the party’s incumbent leader” don’t bode well for the country’s democracy.
The former ruling UDF (1994 - 2004) announced last week that the party had started the process of healing after resolving differences which split the party into two factions but whether the matter has finally been put to rest remains to be seen. The governing DPP sacked Vice President Joyce Banda who disagreed with the decision by the party’s inner circle to settle for Peter Mutharika as the party’s candidate for president in 2014. The MCP, which ruled Malawi during the single-party era, that is from 1964 to 1994, hasn’t been open to the idea of new leadership.
“At CHRR and Cedep, our conviction - and we are most certain most fellow Malawians will agree with us - is that political parties cannot be expected to be championing democracy at national level, when within their own parties, democracy remains illusory. That would only amount to sheer hypocrisy!”
The statement was signed by Gift Trapence and Undule Mwakasungula, executive directors of Cedep and CHRR respectively.
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