National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust says it will embark on nationwide debates for all aspiring members of Parliament (MPs) and councillors to articulate their development plans to voters.
Speaking at a press briefing in Blantyre on Thursday evening, programmes manager for Nice Trust Gray Kalindekafe said the debates, to be held in all 193 constituencies and 462 wards, will run from April to May 10 this year.
He said the debates give voters a chance to ask questions on candidates’ promises, adding the candidates also sign social contracts called ‘Fulfill Your Promise’.
Said Kalindekafe: “These debates have proven to be effective forums for voter mobilisation as well as a tool for conflict management and enhancement of peaceful coexistence and social cohesion.”
Asked whether signing of social contracts has had any effect on the performance of elected leaders, Kalindekafe acknowledged shortfalls in the initiative in previous elections and added that this year, Nice Trust has invested in capacity building to empower the citizenry to hold elected leaders to account for their promises.
“In the past election, social contacts were done at pilot phase, now we will put in place systems where we are going to follow up, we will also put pressure on those elected and build capacity of the communities to find ways and strategies on how they can demand accountability from elected leaders,” he said.
In his remarks, Enock Chinkhuntha, Nice Trust civic education officer (South) said the trust also plans to conduct mobilisation rallies, village meetings and voting demonstrations together with the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
“Nice also plans to deploy over 5 000 monitors in all constituencies and wards where elections will take place. This is to ensure that all eligible voters take part in the election and that all voting processes are being adhered to and that voters are counted in a professional manner,” he said.
Malawi has 193 constituencies and 462 wards according to MEC.
Last week, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter announced that it will conduct a public debate for aspiring presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 elections to accord them an opportunity to articulate how they will tackle challenges facing the country if voted into power.
The country hosted the first ever presidential debate prior to the 2014 Tripartite Elections.