The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has warned traditional leaders and politicians against blocking candidates from holding campaign rallies in their areas.
MEC chairperson for electoral services committee Jean Mathanga said in an interview yesterday the commission had received reports of cases where some candidates were prevented from holding meetings to garner support in readiness for the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Said Mathanga: “We have received such reports but we will sit down as a commission today to discuss the matters. However, we have issued public statements before condemning any such behaviour.
“We will not sit down and watch any chief or politician engaging in unlawful conduct. Whoever is found on the wrong side of the law will be severely punished. We urge all people to bring evidence such as pictures, video clips or recordings to substantiate their claims.”
A recent Long Term Observation report by the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) has highlighted cases where some candidates are being denied the chance to campaign in various places across the country.
The report, covering the period between April 8 and 21 2019, signed by Mesn chairperson Steve Duwa, highlights three cases where candidates were stopped from holding political rallies by a traditional leader and officials from a political party.
Partly reads the report: “In Thyolo a Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate was denied use of grounds to campaign by group village head (GVH) Nthonyiwa. The GVH argued that he will only allow Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates to use the Namiwawa Primary School grounds.
“In Chiradzulu, an independent candidate for local government position was denied campaigning ground at Chimwawa Court by supporters of a rival DPP councillor candidate. In Rumphi, a DPP organising secretary prevented an MCP aspiring member of Parliament from conducting a rally in Songwe Village in Rumphi North.”
The development is coming at a time when the campaign period is reaching a critical period with almost three weeks left before its closure.
Section 7 of MEC 2019 Elections Code of Conduct prohibits anyone from blocking “access to voters for purposes of voter education, fundraising, collecting signatures, recruiting members or canvassing support for a party or candidate.”
Apart from the malpractice, the Mesn report also observed the continued use of handouts by politicians, contrary to the new Political Parties Act enacted in 2018, cases of violence against women candidates as well as the endorsement of candidates by traditional leaders and the clergy.
In a telephone interview Chancellor College based political commentator Mustafa Hussein said the development would eventually clamp efforts to hold free and fair elections if left unchecked.
The National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) is scheduled to meet tomorrow in Lilongwe.