Centre for Multi-Party Democracy (CDM) Executive Director Kizito Tenthani has said political parties contesting in the May 21 Tripartite Elections have a Political Parties Act obligation to disclose publicly the sources of their private funding for the campaign.
Tenthani said this in Mzuzu on Friday during the launch of the voter education by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) held at Katoto Secondary School in Mzuzu on Friday.
He said as parties are quick to scramble for votes, information on those funding the campaign would reveal what financial sources political parties are more likely to be responsive to. It would help the public and media to root out cases of undue influence by donors.
“The law does not want parties to benefit from proceeds of crime,” said Tenthani.
Among other areas, the Political Parties Law also requires political parties to declare funding to their parties larger than K 1 million from individuals in order to deter politicians from siphoning money from public coffers.
Some political parties including Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM, have already expressed their readiness to disclose how their parties are being financed, although none has yet declared.
Tenthani also said it has come to light that politicians who have set up football bonanza’s in their areas now risk infringing on the Political Parties Act if they utilize the sports events to to coerce people to vote for them .
Although It has been a trend in Malawi for politicians to set up football, netball and other sports bonanza’s just before or during campaigns as a way of securing votes from young people from Malawi’s slums and rural areas, Tenthani explained that this year, the dynamics of campaigning have been changed by the new Law which prohibits politicians from using any ‘handouts’ or donations of cash or materials to lure voters.
Said Tenthani:“If you ask people to vote for you when awarding prizes at your football bonanza, you can be at risk of breaking this Law. It will all depend on the situation but you will be taken to task and the courts will help us to determine whether you are in the wrong or not.”
Tenthani, however, added that candidates in this year’s Elections can freely give goods other than party campaign items to their constituents only if the goods will be utilized by the public and if the politicians do not actually ask beneficiaries of the goods to vote for them.
In his remarks Chairperson of MEC’s Media and Civic Education Committee Commissioner Dr Mastern Moffat Banda called for issue-based campaigns and asked voters to attend political rallies of all parties to hear the manifestos in order to make informed choices.
“ As registered voters, be attending rallies of all political parties to be able to distinguish between their plans and choose the good leaders. As citizens you have the responsibility to ensure that we hold a peaceful election, do not allow any politicians to use you to start violence or to disturb other people’s rallies or to destroy their campaign materials,.
“21 May is the day , your main role is to go and cast your vote we are voting, please do not fail to go and cast your vote, make sure you go home and wait for the results from your homes. Policing centres are to places to loitering, ” Banda said.
This year’s campaign is proving to be a campaign unusual as politicians battle it out to win the hearts of voters without crossing the boundaries of the Political Parties Law which not only bans a long-standing tradition of giving handouts but also regulates how parties operate and source their finances.
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