Mutharika pulls out of first debate

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Peter Mutharika has pulled out of first-ever presidential debates to be held in vernacular Chichewa at Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe Monday evening.

Mutharika becomes second presidential candidate to miss out on the first ever presidential debate after President Joyce Banda opted out last week, however unlike Banda the DPP torch-bearer is set to participate in other two remaining debates to be held in English set for Mzuzu and Blantyre.

DPP Secretary General, Jean Kalilani disclosed in an interview with Nyasa Times that Mutharika will not be attending the first debate citing “clash of programmes” as reason for the decision.

Mutharika will not attend the first debate in Chichewa
Mutharika will not attend the first debate in Chichewa

Kalilani said the organisers did not follow protocol in sending out their invitation, which collided with Mutharika’s campaign program.

“We were more than willing to participate but the organisers have been giving out their information in bits and pieces. They met Professor Mutharika twice, and he even confirmed he will be available but they sent their program late, which makes it impossible for him (Mutharika) to make it tonight,” explained Kalilani.

Kalilani said the organisers National Media Institute of Southern Africa (Malawi Chapter) and its partners, failed to use the party’s secretariat to ensure Mutharika was informed in time, saying “They only sent us their program on Thursday while Professor Mutharika had already made other plans”.

“He was in Zomba, then yesterday he was at Jamba; and today he is visiting his constituency. I don’t think he can make it to the debate this evening. But be assured that he will be available in the other two sessions”.

But Namisa Chairperson who is also heading the Presidential Debates Taskforce, Anthony Kasunda said they have not received any official communication from those pulling out of the debates.

“I don’t know what they meant by saying they got the invitations late; what we know is that invitations were set out to every presidential candidate. However, there is no official communication that they (Mutharika and Banda) have pulled out,” Kasunda said.

Kasunda maintained that the debates, in the event that one or two presidential candidates decide to withdraw, will still proceed, and that they expect all invited candidates to participate.

People’s Party (PP) presidential candidate Joyce Banda pulled out last week, citing a “tight campaign schedule”as reason for the sunb.

Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) endorsed the presidential debates starting from today April 22nd in Lilongwe and 29th and May 6th, 2014 in other two regions.

Kasunda last week said the debates aim to motivate candidates to focus on real policy issues, and articulate their position on matters that are important to Malawians thereby providing a basis for holding the winning candidate accountable after the elections.

He said the presidential debates, to be conducted in both English and Chichewa, will also help to promote political tolerance among candidates.

The three presidential debates are being funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) with the National Democratic Institute providing technical support and comes a month after Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) organised a series of debate for presidential running.

The debate to start from 6:30pm will be broadcast live on radio, television and internet by Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Times Television and Zodiak Broadcasting Station.

The second and third presidential debatesare scheduled for April 29 and May 6 in Lilongwe and Blantyre respectively.

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