As political stakeholders continue to create more awareness on the new Political Parties Act, it has come to light that politicians who have set up football bonanza’s in their areas now risk infringing on the Political Parties Act if they utilize the sports events to coerce people to vote for them.
Executive Director for Centre for Multi-Party Democracy Kizito Tenthani said this in Mzuzu on Friday during the launch of the voter education by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) held at Katoto Secondary School in Mzuzu on Friday.
Although It has been a trend in Malawi for politicians to set up football, netball and other sports bonanzas just before or during campaigns as a way of securing votes from young people from Malawi’s slums and rural areas, Tenthani explained that this year, the dynamics of campaigning have been changed by the new law which prohibits politicians from using any ‘handouts’ or donations of cash or materials to lure voters.
Said Tenthani: “If you ask people to vote for you when awarding prizes at your football bonanza, you can be at risk of breaking this Law. It will all depend on the situation but you will be taken to task and the courts will help us to determine whether you are in the wrong or not.”
Tenthani, however, added that candidates in this year’s elections can freely give goods other than party campaign items to their constituents only if the goods will be utilized by the public and if the politicians do not actually ask beneficiaries of the goods to vote for them.
Among other areas, the Political Parties Law also requires political parties to declare funding to their parties larger than K1 Million from individuals in order to deter politicians from siphoning money from public coffers.
Some political parties including Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Transformation Movement (UTM), have already expressed their readiness to disclose how their parties are being financed, although none has yet declared.
In his remarks, Chairperson of MEC’s Media and Civic Education Committee Commissioner Dr Mastern Moffat Banda called for issue-based campaigns and asked voters to attend political rallies of all parties to hear the manifestos in order to make informed choices.
“As registered voters, be attending rallies of all political parties to be able to distinguish between their plans and choose the good leaders. As citizens you have the responsibility to ensure that we hold a peaceful election, do not allow any politicians to use you to start violence or to disturb other people’s rallies or to destroy their campaign materials.
“21 May is the day , your main role is to go and cast your vote we are voting, please do not fail to go and cast your vote, make sure you go home and wait for the results from your homes,” Banda said.
MEC launched the official campaign period for the May 21 Tripartite Elections last week. However, this year’s campaign is proving to be a campaign unusual as politicians battle it out to win the hearts of voters without crossing the boundaries of the Political Parties Law which not only bans a long-standing tradition of giving handouts but also regulates how parties operate and source their finances.