A new survey says voters in Malawi are increasingly dissatisfied with their elected representatives and view traditional chiefs as more interested in voters’ welfare than politicians are. The survey was conducted by the Justice and Peace Commission, a branch of the Catholic Church in Malawi. Rafiq Hajat is executive director of the Institute for Policy Interaction in Malawi. His organization works with the Justice and Peace Commission, among other institutions in Malawi. He explained to Voice of America English to Africa reporter James Butty the concerns regarding voter apathy.
“We went down to the constituencies, and we found that the voters are very disillusioned with their elected representatives because the elected representatives don’t stay in their constituencies. They tend to stay in towns. They don’t go back to the constituencies to consult. They seem to assume that whatever they’re doing is correct. There’s very little of the vertical accountability that is expected from the constituencies…”
Rafiq says the feeling of disillusionment is not limited only to Malawians living in rural areas.
“This feeling is pervasive. Everybody suspects that politicians have sunk into opportunism and personal poverty alleviation instead of looking at the national interest.”
Rafiq says the Justice and Peace Commission briefed the elected representatives about the results of the survey, but he says the politicians say their role has been misunderstood.
“They came back with another point of view to say that they are misunderstood…. Their role is not to build bridges and post offices. It is meant to serve the national interest...and to ensure that projects at local levels are featured in the national budget.”
Rafiq says the survey shows Malawians that the culture for democracy has not yet fully taken roots in Malawi.
“We have a democratic institution. However, without an accompanying democratic culture, a middle ground will be difficult to reach.”
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