The state of intra-party democracy in Malawi: a comparative audit of selected party constitutions
Are political parties in Malawi deficient when it comes to intra-party democracy?
There is a widespread perception that political parties in Malawi are heavily deficient when it comes to intra-party democracy. This study examines, in a comparative perspective at national and international levels, the extent to which the constitutions of six major political parties in Malawi provide for mechanisms for enhancing intra-party democracy.
The paper indicates that undemocratic parties cannot be expected to promote democratic forms of governance when they are in charge of the government machinery.
The study establishes that:
- party constitutions in Malawi are not significantly different from each other
- all parties are characterised by over-concentration of powers in either the party presidency or the national executive committees
- party constitutions are quite weak on the mechanisms for conflict resolution and transformation
- the question of party finances is not well defined in most party constitutions
The document emphasises that a one-size-fits-all approach would not be appropriate because the political parties are at different stages of development. However, the following recommendations can be suggested:
- the problem of intra-party democracy is a systemic one requiring concerted efforts at different levels in order to begin to create an atmosphere where it can flourish
- some of the possible strategies include institutional and organisational development, political culture development and leadership training, strategic public funding and legislating democracy
- particularly, the review of party constitutions in the areas of leadership and candidate selection, conflict management and transformation and finances is required
- complementarily, the effectiveness of intra-party democracy should not be seen in isolation but as part of a whole set of functional and characterising variables.