Malawi govt asked to enforce law on campaign handouts ban as one way of levelling the playing field

A  political analyst from the University of Livingstonia has asked people in the country to condemn and report the practice of giving handouts by politicians during  primary elections, after  government enforces the new Political Parties Act.

Phiri: Enforce the law

George Allan Phiri a Lecturer in the  Department of Social Sciences at the University of Livingstonia in Ekwendeni said handouts should banned during elections campaign according to the law.

“When we are in a dispensation where this law is enforced, we can see a situation where  we can condemn and report handouts that politicians give,  not just money.

“We should condemn and report  the practice where politicians give handouts to people to get votes.  Even during the primaries it is important that this practice should be condemned and  we should check that people are following the Law that is in place  right now,” said Phiri.

Phiri  described  the practice where politicians in Malawi give handouts to get votes  as a form of political corruption although the trend has been  so entrenched in the Malawi society since it started at the dawn of Multi-party democracy in 1994.

The analyst attributed the current  delay by government  in enforcing the law to a lack of political will and the lack of civic education on the masses.

Phiri also called on  civil society leaders and the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to begin providing civic educating to the masses on the law.

“For the civil society and Malawi Electoral Commission, it is important that you sensitize the people on the new law. People need to know that if they are found in the practice of giving or receiving handouts, they will be prosecuted,” Phiri said.

One of the civil society leaders in Mzuzu, Charles Kajoloweka has since called on Government to speedily commence the Law to level the political platform for economically marginalized players to freely participate in politics.

“The Political parties Law is going to be quite strategic in dealing with handouts and leveling the playing ground for all candidates.  The current political context is tilted against the marginalized groups such as women and youth and this Law is in a big way going to level the playing field,” said Kajoloweka.

But when contacted to comment on  progress of enforcing the Law, Ministry of Justice   and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson, Pilirani Masanjala said  that he is still waiting to receive an update of any progress on the  enforcement of the Law from the Minister of Justice Honourable Samuel Tembenu.

According to Masanjala  several administrative processes such as setting up an office and recruitment of officers will need to take place before the Act can be enforced.

The Political Parties  Bill was passed  into Law by Parliament in December 2017 and assented to  by President Peter Mutharika in February 2018.

 The defines handouts as transactions where political parties or candidates distribute private goods, cash, gifts and other items to a person as an enticement to vote for the political party or candidate.

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