In May 2019, Malawians will go to the polls in tripartite elections to elect the President and Vice President, Members of Parliament (MPs) and Ward Councilors. Projections are that the youth aged 18 to 35 years will constitute over 60% of the 2019 voting populations. The elections come against a background of a new political dispensation when Malawians opted for a multi-party democratic system of government in 1993 which replaced a widely viewed autocratic rule of a one party regime.
Since the introduction of the new democratic dispensation, Malawians have participated in a total of 4 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections and in one Tripartite Election to elect leaders with profound hope that democracy would be entrenched, rights and freedoms would be protected and promoted, economic opportunities for all will be created for social economic development of the country.
However, the prevailing democratic dispensation is seemingly failing to redeem the people of Malawi from poverty, majority of which cannot afford minimum standards of living, literally shorting fall of decent clothing, nutritious food and a reasonable shelter. Since the political pluralism, the State has not delivered on the commitments made at national, regional and international level. The African Youth Charter for example is instructive in respect of youth development and empowerment. In Malawi the charter was domesticated by the National Youth Policy, but there has been no meaningful empowerment of the youth. Elections have not presented this country with leaders who have demonstrated remarkable attention by establishing systems on one hand while on the other hand resource the implementation of the Policy.
Consequently, young people continue to face daunting challenges which include unemployment to under-employment and new infections of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, lack of access to economic opportunities has redirected the youth in Malawi to crime gangs, prostitution, teen age pregnancies, child marriages, trafficking in persons, drugs and alcohol abuse. This status quo is negating the notion of Demographic Dividend.
Youth friendly health-services either cannot be accessed or are in a dilapidated state. Youth are victims of corporal punishment, violence, abuse, or political marginalization; the issues impacting the lives of young people are complex and increasing.
Youth continue to be depraved right to meaningful political participation. Alongside women, persons with disability women and other perceived marginalized people, do not have presence in political and governance structures. Further, the gap between the poor and the rich has continued to swell and poverty levels have not reduced significantly (52% of the total population still live below poverty line).
The 2019 Tripartite elections are therefore crucial for a number of reasons. By 2019, Malawi will clock 25 years of democratic era, 55 years of political independence from colonial rule and over 128 years since the creation of Malawi nation formerly known as Nyasaland British Protectorate yet with extremely little progress on people’s development. The elections will also come back-back with deep political and economic governance crises such as endemic corruption in government, deepening poverty, and poor service delivery that have engulfed Malawi in recent years. The 2019 elections therefore present ordinary citizens, who are in majority such as youths and women, with their constitutional right to entrust their political power with official power-holders of their choice in a competitive election.
With this backdrop, the YouthDecide 2019 – a signature national youth campaign, is dedicated to mobilizing and deepening youth voice and action in setting and advancing youth development agenda in Malawi through the forthcoming 2019 democratic elections. The campaign is founded on the fact that the outcome of 2019 elections will be decided by the youth of Malawi (18-35). #YouthDecide2019 #Yas