Former vice-president Justin Malewezi has hit out at political parties in power, saying their incumbency status is the main challenge to holding free and fair elections in Malawi.
Malewezi’s sentiments follow what he called research that indicates that a political party in government has an unfair advantage over other parties as it tends to abuse public resources, including the public media.
Malewezi, who served as the Malawi’s first vice-president from 1994 to 2004, was speaking in Lilongwe during a two-day conference to assess the state of preparedness for the country’s first tripartite elections.
The conference was jointly organised by the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice), the Civic and Political Space Platform (CPSP) and the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI).
Said Malewezi: “Levelling the playing field during campaign period is the main principle in a fair election. But experience has shown that since 1993, the party in government has taken advantage of incumbency to monopolise public resources and public media.”
He said this is contrary to what the Constitution says about use of State resources for campaigning purposes by a particular party.
Added Malewezi: “On the other hand, the Executive [arm of government] needs to carry out legitimate government functions even during the campaign period.
“The problem is that the boundary line between legitimate government functions and campaign activities is so thin that it is invisible.”
Commenting on the powers of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to impose equitable use of public resources, Malewezireferred to the
2004 elections where MEC lodged complaints to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) on the matter.
He suggested that a memorandum of agreement (MoA) should be discussed among all parties to move towards increasing fairness of the electoral processes.
Nice executive director Ollen Mwalubunju said this is an appropriate time to look into such issues.
“The electoral processes essentially begin long before elections actually take place and that the analysis of electoral processes, therefore, requires a long time horizon. We need thus to analyse the extent to which accountability institutions have managed tostem Executive dominance now,” said Mwalubunju.
Malawi is scheduled to hold tripartite elections in May 2014 when voters will elect a president, members of Parliament and ward councillors.