Malawi presidential debates planned for 2014: Opposition hails idea

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has revealed it will hold Presidential Debates in the run to the tripartite elections next year.

According to the released tripartite elections calendar, the Commission is expected to hold presidential debates, which will allow the aspirants to argue on the matter of policies and ideologies in the race to May 20th, 2014 elections.

The debates will be held for the first time in the history of multi-party democracy and will be held in all the three regions of the country next year.

The first debate – according to the electoral calendar – is expected to be held in Mzuzu on March 25th, 2014 before moving to Lilongwe on April 10th, 2014. Blantyre will have its turn on 14th May, 2014.

MEC Commissioner, Reverend Emmanuel Chinkwita-Phiri said they have partnered with several institutions to ensure the debates are well organized and achieve the intended goals.

Presidential candidates: From left to right – Joyce Banda, Peter Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi
Presidential candidates: From left to right – Joyce Banda, Peter Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi

“The debates will allow presidential candidates sell out their ideas to their prospect voters,” he said.

“This is the system which is been implemented in other countries, and based on recommendations Mec obtained during consultative meeting, we found it befitting to initiate the idea,” said Rev Chinkwita-Phiri.

The Commission said it will set rule for the debate likely to include be no clapping, cheering or jeering during the debates.

Political materials including banners, signs, literature, party branded clothing among others will also not be allowed into the debate auditorium.

In separate interviews, two opposition parties, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have hailed the idea to host the presidential debates, saying would give the general public opportunity to assess the 2014 presidential candidates based on facts.

MCP official Joseph Njobvuyalema said: “It shows we are moving with time, everywhere countries are doing this. The debates will give voters an idea of what type of people to put in positions. They will be able to assess their leaders based on their knowledge of issues and what they have in store for them as a nation”.

Njobvuyalema added: “It’s high time we put to a stop putting ignorant people in positions to run the affairs of the country. MCP candidate will be ready to partake in the debates. The idea will help to avoid imposing unqualified persons holding critical positions that require understanding of policies and ideologies of how to run the affairs of the country”.

And DPP Director of Elections, Kondwani Nankhumwa while concurring with Njobvuyalema said his party was more than ready to participate in the debate.

“We are much prepared. The debates will encourage candidate to argue on matters of policies and manifestos, and this is the only way people can tell who is better leader based on ideologies”.

Nankhumwa also hailed Mec for fostering the 50-50 campaign to ensure more women are vying in positions, adding the idea is in tandem with DPP’s policy of encouraging more women in high positions.

The presidential race in 2014 will see incumbent Head of State Joyce Banda – representing PP, Atupele Muluzi of UDF, Peter Mutharika representing DPP and the MCP is yet to select its torch bearer. There is also independent presidential pretendor Thoko Banda. Others are yet to emerge.

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