Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) has cautioned traditional leaders and media houses, especially State-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), against toeing the ruling party line as the 2019 tripartite elections approach.
Speaking during the launch of the elections in Lilongwe Tuesday, CMD Chairperson, Kandi Padambo, said, during the election period, law enforcers must not only be perceived to be impartial but must be seen to be so.
Padambo said statements that traditional leaders utter and the media coverage of an election have a role to play in the levelling of the playing field but also hold the potential to bring chaos to the electoral process.
“We think this is hardly levelling the playing field. We think media houses should endeavour to level the field as regards election coverage by being as objective as possible.
“To our traditional leaders, much as we respect them and regard them as custodians of culture, they must desist from uttering statements that may be perceived as favouring some political parties,” Padambo said.
He mentioned a media monitoring report of one of the past elections which indicated that 92.1 percent of the time that MBC allocated to parties was allocated
to the ruling party, leaving the remainder to opposition parties.
He said the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) budget must be guaranteed if the electoral body is to deliver credible elections.
“We think it is important that Malawi Electoral Commission should have adequate funding and such funding must be protected or guaranteed,” he said.
Mec Chairperson, Jane Ansah, said the commission is aware that once mishandled, elections can easily erode democratic gains made since 1993 and throw the nation into turmoil.
“The commission is committed to creating and fostering an environment conducive for the holding of free, fair and credible elections. The commission will implement all electoral programmes in an honest, professional, transparent and truthful manner.
“We will take all reasonable measures to prevent willful wrong-doing by commissioners and staff. We shall endeavour to ensure total compliance with all electoral laws and other relevant laws of the country. It is our expectation that stakeholders will also comply with the various codes of conduct and electoral laws,” Ansah said.
Out of K42 billion budgeted for the tripartite elections, a total of K9 billion has been provided by the government in the current national budget, which leaves a sum of K32 billion to be provided for in the 2018/19 national budget.
According to Ansah, so far, there is commitment of about K3.3 billion from development partners towards the United Nations Development Programme-managed basket fund and Mec expects more development partners to sign funding agreements with it soon.
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