Not all the nine presidential hopefuls in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections will take part in the upcoming March 29 and April 5 presidential debates, a task force organising the event has announced.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga told journalists in Lilongwe yesterday that there were eight requirements, seven of which the candidate should fulfill to qualify.
She said the requirements include that the candidates, party or coalition should have at least five percent of the 193 seats in the 2014-2019 National Assembly.
On whether the requirement would not be interpreted as discriminating against aspirants with no representation in Parliament, Ndanga said it was just one of the requirements.
She said: “There is also a requirement for the candidate to have structures across the country and others are saying this is discriminatory against independent candidates. But I don’t think so. If one is a candidate, then s/he is expected to have support across the country… We just need evidence of that.”
The task force also includes representatives of taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and privately-owned Times Media Group and Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS).
Times Group editor-in-chief George Kasakula said requirements were put in place to allow only serious candidates in the debate.
During the debate, the task force said, the aspirants would be allowed to have a minimal number of supporters.
ZBS director of programmes and projects Joab Chakhaza said political parties and candidates need to be made aware that the debate is mostly a media event and that the number of supporters for a particular candidate will have no impact on message delivery.
MBC director of news and current affairs Vincent Khonyongwa said that all media houses will have an opportunity to tap from the feed from the media houses in the organising task force.
In 2014, the country hosted the first-ever presidential debates which saw eight of the 12 aspirants taking part at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe on April 22 2014 and 11 during the second leg at Hotel Victoria in Blantyre on April 29 2014.
During a political rally at Njewa Trading Centre in Lilongwe on January 2 this year, the country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is also presidential candidate for the new kid on the political block, UTM Party, asked electoral stakeholders to arrange a presidential debate to help Malawians assess the state of preparedness among aspirants.