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Analysts laud presidential debate

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By Serah Makondetsa:

Political analysts have drawn positives from the first round of presidential debate that took place Friday at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe.

They have, however, faulted Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for failing to take part in the debates.

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Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera, UTM’s torchbearer Saulos Chilima and United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Atupele Muluzi faced off in the three-hour debate.

DPP candidate Peter Mutharika shunned the debate. His running mate, Everton Chimulirenji, also did not take part in running mates’ debates that were held in the past three weeks.

University of Malawi’s political analyst Ernest Thindwa and his University of Livingstonia’s counterpart George Phiri said while there are some areas that need improvement, the debates are offering Malawians a chance to make informed decisions.

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Phiri and Thindwa both said DPP had missed an opportunity to highlight their success in the past five years they have been in power.

“The DPP missed an opportunity for them to demonstrate to Malawians what they have achieved. They have failed to give Malawians hope of what they have achieved so far during the time they have been ruling the country. They should have claimed what they have implemented.

“However, this will not shake the electorates because the debates will not influence the outcome of the elections,” Thindwa said.

He, however, had reservations on the pace the moderator, Grace Malera, took during the debate.

“The debate was okay but there are areas that need improvement particularly on the pace the moderator set for the debate. The moderator was taking time to ask questions than the time given to the aspiring candidates to respond. I personally feel she was not probing enough on how these candidates were going to fulfil the pledges they were making,” he said.

Phiri said some of the issues that were tackled during the debate would have been best explained by DPP which is governing at the moment.

“I think DPP has lost a golden opportunity because the debate would have given them a rare opportunity to reach out to Malawians. What I picked, particularly on the part of Fisp [Farm Input Subsidy Programme], I feel that was an opportunity for them [DPP candidate] to explain what they have done in as far as the agriculture sector is concerned. So, I personally feel they [DPP] have lost an opportunity,” he said.

Among others, the candidates were tasked to explain their stance on the quota system.

On the quota system, Chakwera argued that the system needs to be revisited.

“When a certain medicine is not working, you prescribe to the patient new medication. So it is time to try something else,” he said.

In his response, Chilima said, for education sector to be improved, there is need to abolish quota system.

“Over the years, we have seen education standards going down. As a party, we are going to put measures in place to fix education standards,” he said.

Taking his turn on the issue, Muluzi argued that quota system defeats the purpose of quality education for all.

“We believe in equity and fairness unlike the quota system. But I am surprised that the Vice- President [ Saulos Chilima] was driving the agenda of Public Sector Reforms for the past four years [and] I wonder why he did not make the changes he is talking about now,” he said.

Second installment of the debate would be held on April 2, with John Chisi of Umodzi Party, Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development, Cassim Chilumpha of Tikonze Movement and independent candidate Reverend Kaliya participating.

The third and final round of the debate is scheduled for April 5.

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