Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is meeting political party presidents ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections to lobby for their support and inculcate a culture of peaceful co-existence among their followers by discouraging hate speech during rallies.
Led by its chairperson Jane Ansah, the electoral body on Wednesday met President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and his predecessor Joyce Banda of People’s Party (PP).
In an interview yesterday, MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said MEC plans to meet 25 political party presidents to lobby for a peaceful campaign and elections next year.
He said: “So far, the commissioners which include the chairperson herself [Ansah] and representatives of management, including the chief elections officer Sam Alfandika, have had meetings with President Mutharika at Kamuzu Palace and Joyce Banda at her residence in Lilongwe.
“This afternoon [Thursday] they are scheduled to meet UTM leader Saulos Chilima and Atupele Muluzi of the United Democratic Front [UDF] and thereafter the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Dr Lazarus Chakwera on Friday before meeting several other political party leaders.”
MEC’s meetings with the party presidents come amid cases of political violence in some parts of the country. Some electoral stakeholders, including civil society organisations (CSOs), expressed fear that the cases of violence could compromise next year’s elections.
Mwafulirwa said during the meetings, MEC is also giving the party presidents, some of whom are aspiring presidential candidates in the upcoming elections, an overview of the voter registration exercise and briefing them on preparations for the inspection of the voters’ register and nomination of candidates.
He was upbeat that the meetings will yield positive results and that the elections will be conducted in a free and fair environment.
Said Mwafulirwa: “Political parties are key to the peaceful conduct of elections. To achieve this, we need to instill this in the presidents of the political parties to ensure that their followers observe peace, avoid hate speeches and that they should co-exist with supporters of other political parties.
“This is important as we are drawing closer to the polling day. We believe meeting party presidents is an effective way of preaching peace as they are the top most officials in the parties.”
He said despite meeting representatives of political parties, notably secretaries general and directors of elections through National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof), the commission saw the need to meet the presidents in person to provide first-hand updates.
While commending the MEC initiative, some political commentators have said the leadership of the governing party has a greater role to play in ensuring peaceful co-existence among the citizenry.
Ernest Thindwa, a political analyst at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, said the President should ensure that security agencies work independently, especially when handling political violence-related cases.
He said: “We have seen a number of violence activities perpetrated by those associated with the ruling party and they are left scot-free.
“The only way we can be assured of a peaceful election is if we move away from selective kind of justice. The onus is on the incumbent President to ensure that security agents are not manipulated by politicians.”
Political commentator Humphrey Mvula shared Thindwa’s sentiment and advised the President to walk the talk in promoting peace in the country by refraining from hate speeches during political rallies and not shielding those practising dirty politics.
Commenting on the Tuesday meetings, both PP’s spokesperson Ackson Kalaile and presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani hailed the initiative.
Kalilani said Mutharika hopes that such initiatives will continue to ensure transparency and fairness.