Malawi’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Peter Mutharika on Monday asked the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) to ensure a level playing field for all parties participating in the May 20 Tripartite Elections to ensure a free and fair election.
Mutharika, who presented his nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) last Monday as DPP presidential candidate, was speaking in an interview in Lilongwe after he and senior party officials held an hour-long interface meeting with PAC during which they made commitments on governance and rule of law issues.
Mutharika, the last of PAC’s sample of presidential candidates short-listed for the interface meetings, said he was in agreement with most of the 19 issues of concern which PAC drafted following its All-Inclusive Stakeholders conferences of 2012.
The issues include commitment to the implementation of Section 65 of the Constitution which regulates crossing of the floor among members of Parliament (MPs), review of the Constitution and opening up of the State broadcaster and regulator, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra).
Mutharika said: “We [DPP] also expressed concerns to PAC that no single party should have advantage over other parties and government should not use the legal system to bar others from contesting.”
He also said he told PAC about his party’s fears of possible rigging of the election using internal and external forces which could subvert the will of the people.
In a separate interview, PAC chairperson the Reverend Felix Chingota confirmed DPP’s concerns on the need for a level playing field in the May 20 elections.
He said it is PAC’s intention to bring together the Judiciary, the Malawi Police Service and MEC to plan conflict resolution mechanism, during and before the elections.
The issue of a level playing field, including access to State broadcasters, was also raised by MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera on Friday after President Joyce Banda presented her nomination papers as presidential candidate for her People’s Party (PP).
Mbendera, who is also a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, asked the President to ensure fair coverage to her challengers on public radio and television.
The issues which PAC presented to Mutharika and other presidential candidates came into the limelight during the regime of Mutharika’s deceased brother Bingu when Section 65 was not implemented and the Cabinet was bloated to 42 at one point.
But Mutharika, who has picked former Airtel Malawi managing director Saulos Chilima as his running mate, said DPP was making fresh commitments to Malawians and would ensure Section 65 is implemented automatically without the intervention of the Speaker of Parliament who is inundated with injunctions preventing him from acting.
After meeting the five presidential candidates these past weeks, Chingota
said it was up to the public to hold accountable the aspirants and the commitments they have made on governance and rule of law.
Commenting on the selection of five presidential candidates to interview when 12 have presented nomination papers, Chingota said funding and likelihood of political parties being major contenders in the May 20 elections played a role in their selection of DPP, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), United Democratic Front (UDF), PP and People’s Progressive Movement (PPM).