Four of the eight presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections are Tuesday evening set to tussle in a second round televised debate at the main auditorium of Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe.
The first round on Friday featured Atupele Muluzi of United Democratic Front (UDF), Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM’s Saulos Chilima.
On Tuesday the panelists will include John Chisi (Umodzi Party), Peter Kuwani (Mbakuwaku Movement for Development-MMD), Cassim Chilumpha (Tikonze People’s Movement) and Reverend Kaliya (independent).
The finals series will feature all presidential candidates. President Peter Mutharika of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is shunning the debates.
Chairperson of the organising task force Teresa Ndanga said they organise the presidential debates to level the playing field where one political party may dominate access to the media.
She said the debate also gives Malawians opportunity to hear, analyse and shape the country’s future.
“The debate provides unique opportunity for candidates to speak directly to voters and get their messages out. They also allow candidates to connect with independent and undecided voters who are less likely to attend a campaign rally,” she said.
According to Ndanga, the candidates were grouped to ensure quality as well as an opportunity for the candidates to have ample time to defend their policies and manifestos.
Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that the televised debates are a “battle of ideas.”
Munthali said Chakwera, Chilima and Muluzi debate on Friday was a good start.
“Generally, both UTM and MCP presidential candidates had relatively a good show. This can partly be attributed to the fact that they have already released their manifestoes, and their manifestoes had already policy positions on a number of questions which were asked including on farm input subsidy, corruption, quota system and others,” said Munthali.
However, Munthali stressed that the leaders had a number of similar thoughts on how they would address issues such as corruption, quota system, shortage of drugs and worsening health system.
“Both Chakwera and Chilima demonstrated that they are ready to govern come May 2019,” he said.
Nevertheless, Munthali said all the candidates failed to convincingly articulate on how they would implement inclusive education as well as address maternal health issues.
“In terms of how they handled specific issues, Chakwera was spot on tackling the question of greenbelt initiative by starting to provide a political economy analysis of how politicians have used the initiative as an avenue of siphoning money from the public coffers to be used for political activities.
“This was an important starting point before we even analyse the initiative was yielding its intended aspirations or worthy supporting,” he said.
However, Munthali pointed out that it was Chilima who was able to ably build on this by clearly showing how he would make the Greenbelt initiative practically a success.
“For Chilima it was the issue of Corruption which –as always- he handled with much conviction and precision on how he would deal with it. Atupele had a good show on health- certainly because of the incumbency advantage.
“All in all, the three candidates had good responses on tobacco and diversification of crops, health financing where some candidates were even able to refer to the 15% Abuja declaration while others emphazing the need for improving nutrition from the home hence preventing diseases.”
The public has since called for several areas of improvement such as the host should not take more time to wind up questions.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :