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Parties’ law ready to bite

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By Audrey Kapalamula:

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, has said regulations have been put in place to guide the Political Parties Act, particularly the issue of handouts during the campaign period.

Tembenu Wednesday said this follows an interaction with political parties and Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec).

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“I have met the representative of political parties and officials of Malawi Electoral Commission and out of the consultations I had with them, we have developed the rules. We will soon publish them as soon as we go back to work next year,” he said.

The Act became operational on December 1 2018 after President Peter Mutharika assented to it into law.

However, during the last meeting of Parliament, it was established that some members of Parliament (MP) hardly understood the issues surrounding the handouts.

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Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, advised Tembenu to have in place regulations that will help the lawmakers understand the definition of handouts.

“As you are operationalising that law, can you come up with the schedule of these things? Let us give a limit so that we are all on the same page. I can see a lot of accusations and people being victimised because they belong to one party or another. This must be avoided,” he said

In the Act, handouts have been defined as a transaction or transactions whereby political parties, bodies, candidates or any other person distribute private goods or cash, gifts and other items to a person as an enticement to vote for the political party or candidate.

Tembenu explained to the House on how to differentiate handouts from campaign materials.

“The Act specifically mentions things such as private goods, gifts and other items. Campaign materials are not handouts. However, the Act does require that campaign materials must depict colours and symbols of a political party. Cash issued or solicited is a handout unless it is a transport or a refund for a meal for people who are with you,” he said

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