MALAWI: Presidential and Parliamentary Campaign officially opens

By CAROLINE SOMANJE

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on Tuesday officially opens a two-month campaign period for political parties three days before it releases names of successful presidential and parliamentary hopefuls to contest in the May 19 general elections.


MEC earlier said it will announce nomination results after the
dissolution of Parliament on March 20 in accordance with the
Constitution, only to extend presentation of nominations papers for
aspirants by two days (Tuesday and Wednesday), colliding with the
campaign period expected to end on May 17.

The commission's spokesperson Fegus Lipenga said yesterday campaigning
will for the time being dwell on political parties than individuals
until official results are made public.

In her special address on the period, MEC chairperson Anastazia Msosa
urged media houses, including the two state broadcasters TVM and MBC,
to give equal and fair coverage to all contestants if they are to level
the playing field. She also asked journalists to adhere to the code of
conduct ratified by various media houses with MEC last year.

To the public, Msosa said people should ensure peace and avoid disrupting rallies of political opponets.

Democracy means co-existence and every political party should be free to hold meetings any place, she said.

Msosa asked chiefs to be impartial and that religious leaders should preach unity among all people.

MCP spokesperson Ishmael Chafukira said his party expected MEC to take
full responsibility in ensuring a free, fair and democratic campaign by
ensuring TVM, MBC and all media are accessible to all political parties.

The playing field has to be levelled. TVM and MBC must open up today
as the official campaign period begins so that all parties reach the
electorate. Propaganda programmes must stop and be removed from air.

Abuse of public resources like the use of parastatal vehicles in
ferrying supporters [to political rallies] must be checked and halted
to avoid giving some individuals and parties an unfair edge and
advantage over others, he said

Section 63 (1) (b) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections
(PPE) Act stipulates that every political party shall have the right to
have the substance of its campaign propaganda reported on radio, news
broadcasts of MBC and in any newspapers in circulation in Malawi.

Part (2) of the same section says the commission may, by arrangement
with MBC, allocate equal time on the radio during which political
parties may be allowed to speak in campaigning for an election.

In previous elections, political parties were allocated such slots on
MBC Radio 1 where their leaders or representatives spoke why they
should be voted into power.

UDF deputy secretary general Hophmally Makande, while agreeing with MCP
on MBC and TVM, said MEC should check the conduct of Police and Army
which, he alleged, are sometimes discharged to the advantage of DPP. He
said arbitrary arrests must not be used to frustrate the opposition.

But DPP spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba, while emphasising the need for
public media to serve taxpayers, said the opposition must not forget
that they approved only a K1 allocation of the public purse to the two
broadcasters.

TVM acting director general Bright Malopa said his institution is a
private company funded by government which has so far not benefited
from public finances. He said invitations were extended to some
sections of the opposition to be featured on television but most have
not been forthcoming.

He said TVM has only seven cameras which are expected to cover 193
constituencies when the same opposition is withholding our funding.

MBC director general Patrick Khoza referred the matter to chairperson
of elections committee at the radio station Jeffrey Kazembe who was out
of reach when contacted.

The Nation

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