By Macdonald Thom:
A taskforce organising presidential debates ahead of this year’s tripartite elections has announced that not all presidential candidates will participate in the events at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe on March 29 and April 5 2019
Addressing the press in Lilongwe Monday, Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Malawi Chairperson, Teresa Ndanga, who heads the taskforce, said, in developing participation criteria, they took into consideration international and regional best practices.
The taskforce has outlined eight conditions which the candidates are supposed to meet before they are included on the list of participants.
Ndanga said participating candidates would be required to meet seven out of the eight criteria.
“Not every presidential candidate will participate in the debates. The taskforce has developed a criteria to guide the selection process and only candidates who meet the conditions will participate. It is important to note that, in developing the participation criteria, the taskforce has taken into consideration international and regional best practices on debates. The participating candidate will be required to meet seven of the eight criteria…,” Ndanga said.
One of the criteria is that the candidate, party or coalition must be eligible to run as a presidential candidate for 2019 presidential elections by successfully completing their candidate nomination forms with Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec).
The taskforce also said the candidate, party or coalition must have at least five percent of the 193 seats in Parliament and should also demonstrate and prove ability to field at least 50 percent of candidates in parliamentary elections and Local Government elections, proportionally distributed across all three administrative regions of the country.
Ndanga also said the candidate, party or coalition must have developed and publicly presented manifestos before the first debate and demonstrate an active campaign across the country during the campaign period as stated by Mec.
Other criteria are:
- The candidate, party or coalition can demonstrate a national presence by having organisational structures across the country that include elected positions of the National Executive Committee, regional, district, constituency, and area levels across the country
- The candidate, party or coalition can demonstrate that it has actively participated in political life of the country during the last five years
- The candidate, party or coalition has agreed to abide by a commitment to non-violence
- The candidate’s party has conducted internal party elections for positions.
According to Ndanga, the 2019 debates taskforce consists of Misa-Malawi, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Times Group and Zodiak Broadcasting Corporation (ZBS).
There are also civil society organisations (CSOs), which include Centre for Multiparty Democracy, National Democratic Institute, Democracy Works Foundation, Civil Society Agriculture Network, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and Malawi Law Society.
Other CSOs are Public Affairs Committee, Voluntary Service Organisation and National Initiative for Civic Education Public Trust.
Times Group Editor-in- Chief George Kasakula, MBC Director of News and Current Affairs Vincent Khonyongwa and ZBS Director of Programmes and Projects Joab Frank Chakhaza accompanied Ndanga to the press conference.
“We want only serious candidates to participate in these debates,” Kasakula said.
Last week, Mec approved a list of nine candidates that will participate in this year’s presidential elections.
The nine include Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi Congress Party), Saulos Chilima (UTM), Joyce Banda (People’s Party), Atupele Muluzi (United Democratic Front) and Peter Mutharika (Democratic Progressive Party).
Others are John Chisi (Umodzi Party), Peter Kuwani (Mbakuwaku Movement for Development), Cassim Chilumpha (Tikonze People’s Movement) and Reverend Kaliya (independent).