Political analysts and commentators have hailed the televised presidential and running mate debates, saying they are offering Malawians a chance to make informed decisions but were quick to offer constructive criticism with tips to moderator Grace Malera to improve.
The first phase of the presidential debate on Friday pitted Atupele Muluzi of United Democratic Front (UDF), Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM’s Saulos Chilima in the main auditorium of Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc).
The three articulated issues on what to expect from their administrations should they be ushered into government during the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Second leg of the debate would be held on April 2, with John Chisi of Umodzi Party, Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development, Cassim Chilumpha of Tikonze Movement and independent candidate Reverend Kaliya participating.
The third and final round of the debate is scheduled for April 5 with all presidential candidates taking part
Govenring Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) DPP candidate Peter Mutharika shunned the debate. His running mate, Everton Chimulirenji, also did not take part in running mates’ debates that were held in the past three weeks..
University of Malawi political analyst Ernest Thindwa said the event was “generally good” but with several areas of improvement such as the host taking more time to wind up questions.
“he debate was okay but there are areas that need improvement particularly on the pace the moderator set for the debate. The moderator was taking time to ask questions than the time given to the aspiring candidates to respond,” said Thindwa.
He also pointed out that the “ how question” was not addressed adequately by the candidates.
Said Thindwa: “ The candidates promised a lot but how they want to move from where we are now to where they want to be, they were not clear.”
He added: “So there was need to have a clear policy proposition in order to address the gaps they are seeing. So it was a mere talk show.”
Governance expert Makhumbo Munthali also told Nyasa Times that the moderator at first could drag the debate which made the event in the early part “somehow dull.”
However, along the way she was able to pick up especially when she started encouraging the debaters to not only “quiz” but also critique each other’s points, observed Munthali.
“The moderator did not demonstrate any biases, and she seemed to have even gained the trust and confidence of debaters throughout the debate without anyone of them publicly complaining.
“The other strength of the moderator is that she demonstrated to have vast knowledge of the subject matter perhaps this may be partly due to the vast exposure she has had in development issues,” Munthali said of Malera, a legal expert.
However, he pointed out that the area she needs to improve is that she shouldn’t spend more time elaborating the question as this kills the momentum and drags the process.
He also commended the organisers for the event and suggested that in the next debates they should allow the audience to be able to clap hands for their candidate whenever he or she finishes delivering his submission.
“These are some of things that ignite the debate and make it even more lively. Otherwise, the rest was superb. Bravo to the organisers,” Munthali said.
The presidential debate is being organised by consortium of different entities including media houses, such as the taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and privately-owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and Times Media Group.
Other organisations include Misa Malawi, National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice), Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), Democracy Works Foundation (DWF), Public Affairs Committee (PAC), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Voluntary Service Organisation, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Malawi Law Society (MLS) and Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet).
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