Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential running mate Everton Chimulirenji has snubbed the first-ever presidential running mates debates ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections organised by private broadcaster Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS).
Chimulirenji was loudly derided by the packed audience at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe when he did not show up.
Part of the audience chanted “Chimulirenji wathawa! Wathawa!”
Some were heard murmuring that Chimulirenji was “too scared” to debate with other panellist and that DPP could be taking the electorate for granted.
Chimulirenji, according to debate host Joah Frank Chakhaza, had communicated to organisers of the debates that he would attend the debates.
“We extended invitation to Democratic Progressive Party running mate and he [Chimulirenji] confirm ed that he was going to come but he has not showed up tonight,” said Chakhaza.
Other running mates who attended included Mohammad Sidik Mia (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), Jerry Jana (People’s Party-PP), Frank Mwenifumbo (United Democratic Front-UDF) and Michael Usi of UTM Party
The refusal by DPP running mate, Chimulirenji, to participate in the BICC debate is not without precedence.
In 2014 former president Joyce Banda’s running mate Sosten Gwengwe also snubbed the second debate.
In the USA, president Lyndon Johnson refused to debate with senator Barry Goldwater in 1964. Johnson was leading in the polls and public speaking was not his forte.
The reasons for Chimulirenji’s no show were not cleared outlined.
Analysts say debates can influence voters in the election.
The fact remains, though, that the audience in the BICC and those following the proceeds on Zodiak TV and various media were on Thursday evening denied the opportunity of hearing the side of the sitting government on the themes of the day.
The second debate is scheduled to take place on March 14 at Chichiri International Conference Centre, widely known as Comesa Hall, in Blantyre.
It will be seen if Chimulirenji will then have the guts to attend the debate.
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