Former vice-president and leader of the Assembly for Democracy and Development (ADD) Cassim Chilumpha who is a presidential candidate in the May 21 Tripartite Elections on the ticket of Tikonze People’s Movement failed to show up for a presidential debate on Tuesday in Lilongwe.
Chilumpha had earlier confirmed to organisers of the televised debate that he will tussle in a second round televised debate but he was no show at the main auditorium of Bingu InternationalConventionCentre (Bicc).
He gave no explanation for his absence but his spokesman Mses Gambatila however said Chilumpha will attend the final debate if invited.
On Tuesday the panelists included John Chisi (Umodzi Party), Peter Kuwani (Mbakuwaku Movement for Development-MMD) and Reverend Kaliya (independent).
The first round on Friday featured Atupele Muluzi of United Democratic Front (UDF), Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM’s Saulos Chilima.
The finals series will feature all presidential candidates. President Peter Mutharika the flagbearer for the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who is running for a second and final five-year term in office, is shunning the debates.
During the second round of presidential debates, the three candidates Chisi, Kuwani and Kaliya agreed that there was deep-rooted corruption in government.
However, Chisi said there is need to change the crop of leaders from the same political pedigree and “take a risk” with new thinking.
He said amongst the eight presidential candidates, he was a better off as a Malawian trained professor, saying the other professor is “tired” in apparent jibe at President Professor Peter Mutharika, 79.
Chisi asked the electorate to remove the “old professor” and called for new leadership. He prides himself as an educated leader a prized asset that gives him the “command.”
He said:“Malawians should not be obstinate, it is time to change and elect new leaders.”
On Tuesday Chisi was the main act of the debate and spoke with confidence and authority with good command of English unlike the other two panellists who were only fluent in local lingua franca Chichewa.
Governance expert and political commentator Makhumbo Munthali who told Nyasa Times that the televised debates are a “battle of ideas” said the three aspirants – Chisi, Kuwani and Kaliya did not live up to expectations.
“Of course, with few exceptions where the three aspirants engaged themselves to a constructive debate on health issues, the [candidates] turned this important forum into an arena of comedy where they either committed serious fallacies or shared unrealistic plans such as buying hericopters for health centres,” said Munthali who was part of the audience at BICC.
He continued: ‘In my view this was a missed opportunity for these candidates in order to prove their critics wrong that despite the fact that they were going to lose the elections they had the right ideas to transform this country hence deserving the attention of the public.”
Munthali also observed that moderator Grace Malera – a former executive director of Malawi Human Rights Commission – improved “tremendously” working on the feedback she received on Friday.
“She was on top of the game. She managed her time well and was able to guide the debate. However, she was only let down by the 3 debaters who often showed lack of seriousness in addressing the issues,” he said.
Chairperson of the organising task force Teresa Ndanga said they organised the presidential debates to level the playing field where one political party may dominate access to the media.
She said the debate also gives Malawians opportunity to hear, analyse and shape the country’s future.
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