Malawi Presidential debates to involve opposition only: PP pulls out

The presidential candidates debates which are slated for April 22 and 29 and May 6, 2014 organised by the National Media Institute of Southern Africa – Malawi Chapter – and approved by Malawi Electoral Commission will only involve opposition torch bearers as incumbent Head of State Joyce Banda will not attend.

Governing People’s Party (PP) secretary general Paul Maulidi has confirmed that President Banda will not attend the debated on Tuesday, saying she was busy campaigning in the grassroots and also carrying other duties.

Maulidi said PP has “expressed regrets” to the organisers that President Banda “cannot afford to attend those debates” as she is busy “reaching out” to the electorate.

He said PP would address most of the issues  in the debate agenda “through other forums, including during our campaign rallies.”

PP also withdrew from the running mates debate, citing Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS)’s bias towards the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Opposition leaders debate: Peter Mutharika, Atupele Muluzi and Lazarous Chakwera
Opposition leaders debate: Peter Mutharika, Atupele Muluzi and Lazarous Chakwera

NAMISA in conjunction with what it calls the multi-stakeholder Taskforce on Malawi Presidential Debates  said will hold a  first ever Presidential Debate for  aspiring presidential candidates on Tuesday, April 22 at the Bingu International Conference Centre, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm and broadcast live on radio, television and internet.

“Second and third presidential debates are also scheduled for April 29 and May 6 in Lilongwe and Blantyre respectively, and will include those political parties fielding parliamentary candidates in 10 percent of constituencies across the country,” said  Namisa Chairperson Anthony Kasunda.

It says the Taskforce has received confirmation from most political parties that their candidates will participate and is finalizing the engagement process in readiness for the debate to have representation of all candidates.

“Among other key decisions, all the debates will combine Chichewa and English and will be restricted to invited guests only and moderated by a well-respected, knowledgeable Malawian with a neutral stand and very conversant with Malawian politics,” Kasunda said.

The Taskforce has been endorsed by the Malawi Electoral Commission and funding for the debates has been provided by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) with the National Democratic Institute providing technical assistance made possible by support from UKAID.

Among others, the debates have been organised to inspire issues based elections and enable candidates to market their ideas and policies to the electorate.

The list of organizations that are in the task force organising the debates includes the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and National Initiative for Civic Education Trust (NICE).

Other organizations are the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Malawi Chapter, Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN), Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and the Malawi Human Rights Commission.

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