Editor's Comment

Coalition government, necessary safety valve

THE National Dialogue Forum in its sittings has made several proposals and resolutions, all in a bid to refine the constitution, electoral process Act and Public Order Act among other governance policies.
Yesterday, the forum proposed that the current electoral system should provide for a coalition Government in an event that there is no outright winner. This would avoid a re-run.
The forum says a coalition government will save the country a lot of money.
“We propose that we introduce a bill entitled electoral systems bill whose objective will be to provide for a mixed member representation and also allow for formation of a coalition Government to avoid a re-run if no candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the cast votes,” Committee Group One chairperson Felix Mutati said when he made the proposal yesterday during plenary when the forum was discussing the Electoral Process Act.
For a democratic country like ours with over 30 political parties, the levels of fragmentation for votes during elections is very high.
While there are usually two or three dominant political parties, the fact is that votes are split among the many political players making it difficult for one party to get the 50 + 1 vote as required by the amended constitution.
Currently, the provision in the constitution indicates that if in an election no presidential candidate gets to the winning threshold of 50 percent +1 vote, there must be a re-run.
Needless to say, it is extremely expensive for a developing country like ours, which is struggling to solve a myriad of challenges including high poverty levels, to hold two elections of the same magnitude within a short period.
As a country that has lost sitting presidents before, we know that it is not easy to hold two presidential elections within one term, which is a space of five years.
Now, holding two elections within a space of one or two weeks is a huge drain on the limited resources.
Given that political parties are within their democratic rights to participate in any election, the risks are high of losing huge sums of money through a re-run if no candidate attains the 50 percent +1 vote threshold.
It is, therefore, only prudent to find ways of safeguarding the electoral process from such risks.
A coalition government, which entails two or more parties getting together for the sake of attaining the required threshold, is recommended.
Instead of going for a re-run, political parties with similar ideologies can enter into a coalition agreement.
This kind of government provides the best opportunity to promote objectivity and real consensus on issues.
A coalition government, if well-handled and in national interest, allows members of varying backgrounds and ideologies to come together and agree on policies in the best interest of all.
It allows for checks and balances from within the governance system.
The idea of coalition government is certainly worth exploring considering that it is at proposal stage.
As the proposal goes through other stages such as cabinet and parliament, it is important to approach the subject with objectivity and open-mindedness.
It is important to note that it is not wrong to keep refining our constitution and other pieces of legislation as we work towards creating a better society.
In 2016 the constitution was amended from a simple majority vote to include a 50 percent +1 vote clause and a re-run. There is no harm in going further to seal any loopholes left.
It is, however, hoped that those tasked with such legal reforms will not take it as an academic exercise but come up with laws that will stand the test of time.
It is also important to interrogate possible weaknesses of a coalition government and strengthen those areas.
For instance, in any coalition government the chances for disagreements and one party pulling out are high.
It is therefore important to ensure that a coalition government agreement binds parties involved for a period of time to prevent any crisis.

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