Malawi to hold presidential debates for 2014 elections -EC

For the first time in the history of democracy Malawi, the country will hold presidential candidates debates during the 2014 general elections campaigns, the country’s electoral body has announced.

One of the commissioners at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Reverend Emmanuel Chinkwita Phiri disclosed this during a Human Rights Day debate in the capital Lilongwe hosted by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) with support from the United Nations.

Chinkwita Phiri said the debate will be part of an effort to create a well informed electorate during the elections, which also for the first time the country might have three elections-presidential, parliamentary, and local government polls at one go.

“On the issue of presidential debates, I should say that in the budget which we have presented this issue is there. It is possible,” he said.

Rev Chinkwita: We will hold debates for presidential candidates

During the debate some of the contributors asked MEC if it would be possible to introduce presidential debates as one way of creating well informed masses and give the candidates a chance to explain their policies and ideologies.

Another controversial issue during the debate was the appointment of the country’s vice President Khumbo Kachali to oversee the operations of MEC with many observing that this was eroding the independence of the electoral body.

MHRC Commissioner Rodgers Newa, who was among the panellists, agreed with the observation saying that the appointment, contravenes Section 76 (4) of the Constitution that guarantees the independence of MEC.

Section 76 (4) of the Malawi Constitution states that: “The Electoral Commission shall exercise its powers, functions and duties under this section independent of any direction or interference by other authority or any person.”

Chinkwita Phiri also said: “The laws are clear on the independence of the MEC. This is why when MEC was closed by the President, the decision was challenged. For MEC to be put under a ministry,  I hope that decision was just an oversight.”

President Joyce Banda’s new cabinet has Kachali as responsible for the electoral body as well as National Relief and Disaster Management, National Public Events, Central Government Stores and Department of Printing Services.

During a political rally held in the country’s commercial city President Banda justified the appointment. She said MEC has administratively always been under the Office of the President and Cabinet and the move was just a delegation of duties to the vice President.

She parried accusations that the move is aimed at rigging the 2014 elections saying even without rigging she was confident of winning the elections as she sees no formidable opposition in any of the suggested candidates so far.

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