The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says church leaders should desist from endorsing political candidates in order to avoid infringing on people’s rights to choose a candidate of their choice.
Commissioner Dr. Jean Mathanga said this in a speech read on her behalf by Catherine Nkhoma [ Senior Public Education Officer at Anti-Corruption Bureau] at Ezondweni Technical College in Mzimba North Constituency on Wednesday during an interface with traditional leaders from Traditional Authority (T/A) Mtwalo’ s Area.
“Churches and other religious bodies should not be endorsing candidates or telling their followers to vote for any candidate as this is against the rights of the electorate to choose a candidate of their choice.
“Traditional leaders and all those in authority, should not use their power to influence registered voters to vote for any candidate who is not of their choice, everyone has the right to vote for a candidate People should not use their authority to influence voters’ choices,” said Nkhoma.
And Traditional Authority Mtwalo assured electoral stakeholders that all candidates are receiving an equal opportunity to sell their manifesto in his area. Mtwalo said that while aspiring Members of Parliament are utilizing the opportunity, presidential aspirants in this year’s Elections are yet to conduct their campaigns in Ezondweni and surrounding areas.
Said Binwel Moyo, a representative of T/A Mtwalo: “Everyone is free to campaign here and some MPs have come but some of them, we have not seen them. The Presidential candidates have not yet come to do their campaigns in this Area but we hear that they stop at Ekwendeni to do their meetings.”
The comments from MEC come barely a week after the Nkhoma Synod of the CCAP issued a Pastoral Letter implicitly endorsing Malawi Congress Party President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera.
Meanwhile, a network of non-governmental and faith-based organizations, Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) has also spoken against the conduct of some traditional leaders and faith leaders who have endorsed some candidates contesting in this month’s elections.
In a press release published on May 2, MESN has also called on both traditional and faith leaders to refrain from partisan politics.
“MESN Notes with dismay that some traditional and religious leaders are blatantly endorsing and campaigning for presidential candidates and or political parties. MESN acknowledges that these leaders have their right to vote however traditional and religious leaders should not display partisan politics.
“The Law as well a code of conduct signed by these leaders should be enforced by the Malawi Electoral Commission without fear or favour,” reads part of the Statement.
Malawi’s political parties and candidates are in the heat of the official campaign period.
Meanwhile, MEC has conducted dry tests of the digital results transmission system in all constituency tally centres in readiness for the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
In Mzuzu, EU observers and monitors of some independent candidates observed the tests from the Mzuzu City Council Chamber.