The task force responsible for organizing the 2019 Presidential Debates has changed the format of the debates to allow for what it calls a level playing field and a national platform for all nine presidential candidates.
In a press statement signed by Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter chairperson Teresa Ndanga, the change is a result of overwhelming feedback from electoral stakeholders.
Instead of two debates, the taskforce will stage three debates to be held on March 29, April 2 and April 5, 2019.
Initially, Misa had planned that only those that fulfill seven of the eight requirements it had listed would qualify.
Among the requirements was that the candidates, party or coalition should have at least five percent of the 193 seats in the 2014-2019 National Assembly raising criticism from other stakeholders that Misa was acting against aspirants with no representation in Parliament.
Reads the statement in part: “To ensure the quality of the debates as well as an opportunity for candidates to outline their vision for Malawi and defend their policies and manifestos, the presidential candidates will be divided into two groups.
“Prior to their respective debates, all candidates will be asked to sign a pledge of non-violence.”
Ndanga further said all parties and representatives were informed of the changes in the format during a meeting with senior party and candidate representatives held in Lilongwe on Monday, March 11, 2019.
The task force consists of MISA Malawi, Malawi Broadcasting Cooperation (MBC), Times Group, Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and Civil Society Organisations including Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), Democracy Works Foundation (DWF), Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET).
Other CSOs in the task force are the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Malawi Law Society (MLS), Public Affairs Committee (PAC), Voluntary Service Organization (VSO), National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust, and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).