The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has said church leaders should desist from endorsing political candidates to avoid infringing on people’s rights to choose a candidate of their choice.
Commissioner Jean Mathanga said this in a speech read on her behalf by Catherine Nkhoma (senior public education officer at the Anti-Corruption Bureau) at Ezondweni Technical College in Mzimba North Constituency on Wednesday, during an interface with traditional leaders from Inkosi Mtwalo’s area.
“Churches and other religious bodies should not endorse candidates or tell their followers who to vote for as this is against the rights of the electorate to choose a candidate of their choice.
“Traditional leaders and all those in authority, should not use their power to influence registered voters to vote for any candidate who is not of their choice. Everyone has a right to vote for any candidate,” said Nkhoma.
Binwel Moyo, a representative of Inkosi Mtwalo assured electoral stakeholders that all candidates are receiving equal opportunity to sell their manifestos in his Area. Moyo said while aspiring members of Parliament are utilising the opportunity, presidential aspirants in this year’s elections are yet to conduct their campaigns in Ezondweni and surrounding areas.
Said Moyo: “Everyone is free to campaign here and some MPs have come but some of them have not including presidential candidates.”
The comments from MEC come barely a week after Nkhoma Synod of the CCAP issued a Pastoral Letter which indirectly endorsed Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera.
Meanwhile, a network of non-governmental and faith-based organisations, the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) has also spoken against some traditional and faith leaders who have endorsed some candidates contesting in this month’s elections.
“Mesn notes with dismay that some traditional and religious leaders are blatantly endorsing and campaigning for presidential candidates and or political parties. Mesn acknowledges that these leaders have a right to vote, but they should not display partisan politics.
“The Malawi Electoral Commission should enforce the law as well as the Code of Conduct these leaders signed,” Mesn says in its statement