The governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has insisted that Malawians should forget about having President Peter Mutharika articulating his development agenda through televised presidential debates which starts Friday night in Lilongwe.
DPP spokesperson Nicholous Dausi told Times Radio on Thursday that Mutharika would not take part in the presidential debate ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections .
“President Mutharika will not take part in the debate,” said Dausi.
DPP says it has reservations with the integrity of those behind the organisation of the same.
The live presidential debates, scheduled to host all the nine presidential aspirants, will be in three phases with the first group on March 29, the second on April 2 and the final group on April 5 at Bingu International Convetion Centre (BICC).
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter chairperson Teresa Ndaga, who is also chairing the task force organising the presidential debates, said they are still persuading DPP as well as the President to make him change his mind by humbling himself and joining the other candidates on March 29 in the first of the three debates lined up for all presidential candidates.
The presidential debate is being organised by consortium of different entities including media houses, such as the taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and privately-owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and Times Media Group.
Other organisations include Misa Malawi, National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice), Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), Democracy Works Foundation (DWF), Public Affairs Committee (PAC), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Voluntary Service Organisation, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Malawi Law Society (MLS) and Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet).
Analysts have argued that the reason the DPP has given for its presidential candidate Mutharika not participating in presidential debates is just a cover up.
Political commentator and Malawi News columnist George Kasakula urges President Mutharika to reconsider his stand.
“These candidates are looking for a job—fighting for one job—and Malawians are essentially calling them to an interview. It does not make sense for any candidate to shun the interview from the owners of the job and then hope to get it at the end,” argued Kasakula in his ‘Hitting the nail’ column.
He added: “Those who feel big and refuse to humble themselves are saying Malawians can go to hell, yet, on May 21, they expect the same Malawians to vote for them, which is a total contradiction.
“The debates will be watched by millions of Malawians, eager to see and hear what their leaders will say and who deserves their vote and has plans to safeguard their futures and that of their children.”
The columnist continued:“The President should change his mind and shame those that have already started making bad jokes tagging him as a coward who is afraid of facing up to political opponents.
“Mutharika must stop listening to bad advisers who are telling him that he will get embarrassed and concocting lies that those organising the debates have integrity issues because they are not naming and describing the matters that they are talking of bordering on poor integrity.”
In the run-up to the May 20 2014 elections, then incumbent president Joyce Banda shunned the two presidential debates held in Blantyre and Lilongwe, while her running mate, Sosten Gwengwe participated in the first one before ducking the second leg of the running mates in Blantyre.
Mutharika, who was then a presidential hopeful in opposition, failed to attend the Lilongwe presidential debate , but turned up for the one in Blantyre while Vice-President Saulos Chilima then a running mate to Mutharika, attended both debates.
Kasakula pointed out that history shows that “it does not end well for politicians that think they are big and do not humble and avail themselves to be quizzed on relevant issues by the people of Malawi.”
On his part, governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali said the resonas for DPP pulling out of the debate are not genuine and that it is a missed opportunity.
“It is sad that the ruling parties in Malawi have in recent years run away from such debates,” he said, adding “this is bad for democracy.”
Legal expert Thoko Kaime also quashed DPP, sayng the reasons for shunning the debates has nothing to do with the integrity of the process.
“That’s just new nyusesi[hot air] being peddled by the party,” he wrote on social media.
He said President Mutharika would have had a lot of defending to do for the “145 questions for which they have no believable answers.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :