Malawi Parliament has passed the Political Parties Bill that probihit giving handouts to lure voters duing elections, a development that is set to transform the country’s political landscape.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said the Political Parties Bill would usher in a new era in political party management and banning handouts was one way of levelling the playing field.
He said an issue-based campaign would attract more Malawians especially the youth to take an interest in politics.
The Political Parties Bill will replace the current Political Parties (Registration and Regulation) Act and address the challenges being faced when regulating the registration, financing and functioning of political parties in Malawi.
Among others, Article 41 (1) of the new law provides that a candidate or political party contesting in an election shall not issue handouts and failure to adhere to that one commits an offence which attracts a fine of K10 million or five years imprisonment.
The new law also gives powers to Registrar of Political Parties to deregister political parties that do not win in elections or hold conventions, impose fines on people that belong to more than one political party and also impose fines on political parties that do not declare donations..
The law also calls for political parties to inform the registrar whenever there is a change involving amendment to a political party constitution or manifesto.
However, the it says that the Auditor General audits the financial records of any political party that receives State funds, saying that when Parliament dissolves, political parties should close the party’s books and records of account.
“Subject to the Public Audit Act and the Public Finance Management Act, the minister responsible for finance may issue written instructions for the better control and efficient management of funds provided to political parties under this Act,” reads the Bill.
Chancellor College political scientist Boniface Dulani has said the new law will bring about order in what was otherwise a barely regulated political arena.