Partisan chiefs hindering campaign for more women leaders

Traditional leaders who are endorsing candidates for the May 21 Tripartite Elections are feared to be hindering women from freely campaigning to gain the required support from voters for the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

This is according to Happy Mhango, the Northern Region Representative for the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC). Mhango said this at a meeting organized by the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency at Mpatso Hotel in Mzuzu on Monday.

“People do not trust chiefs anymore. They publicly endorse candidates. They put no go zones and women aspirants cannot go to these areas to hold their campaign meetings because they feel that the chiefs have already chosen a candidate.

“Put your house in order as chiefs. As chiefs, ensure that you interact with these partisan chiefs so that they should be neutral,” Mhango said.

Patricia Mzumara, one of the female parliamentary candidates who attended the meeting confessed to have faced different kinds of attacks, from male opponents in her Constituency Rumphi Central, since the onset of the official campaign period in March.

“There’s been a sense of intimidation, disrespect and nasty verbal innuendos that I’ve got from other aspirants. The facts that I am the only female and I am contending with five, their supporters have been really violent. Politics is tough but I am ready for what comes,” Mzumara said.

But Communications Specialist for the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency, Wisdom Chimgwede, has implored all Malawians to give moral support to women aspirants to ensure that the candidates maintain their focus in the face of widespread intimidation and violence.

“These remaining 14 days are a very critical time when they need a lot of moral support. That is why we have convened this meeting to ensure that we meet the different stakeholders in the electoral process and strategize the way forward to help women,” Chimgwede said.

According to Chimgwede, creating a violence-free environment before and during the elections is vital if the country is to harness the demographic dividend of the young first-time female voters who comprise a larger share of the youth majority of the country’s 6.8 million registered voters.

Last year, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) slashed nomination fees for women aspiring to contest in Parliamentary elections by 50 percent from MK 500, 000 to MK 250, 000 to attract more women to the political arena.

In addition, the 50:50 Agency has also embarked on reimbursing the nomination fees to the women aspirants.

Meanwhile, MEC is overseeing printing of ballot papers and result sheets in Dubai by Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LCC which is expected to conclude on May 10, 2019.

According to a public notice issued on May 8 and signed by the MEC CEO Sam Alfandika, the ballot papers will be received in the Country on 13th May for Local Government Elections and half of Parliamentary Election ballots. The rest of the Parliamentary election ballot papers and the Presidential Elections ballot papers are expected to land on 14th May.

Deployment of sensitive polling materials to the District councils is expected to start from May 16 in readiness for the Country’s second Tripartite Elections on May 21.

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