Malawi, the political parties are going all-out in their campaigns to woo voters
before the May 19 presidential and parliamentary elections. In fact, observers
say the campaign has been marred by speeches full of hate and blame – posing a
challenge to those hoping for elections free of violence.
Malawi's presidential candidates have signed a Code of Conduct with the Malawi
Electoral Commission as a guideline to free and fair polls. The agreement was reached in February by all
seven presidential candidates, during the presentation of nomination papers.
Among those who signed were current president Bingu wa Mutharika of the ruling
Democratic Progressive Party, Kamuzu Chibambo of the People's Transformation
Party, and John Tembo, representing the alliance between the Malawi Congress
Party and the United Democratic Front Alliance,
other candidates and signatories are Stanley Masuali of the New Republican
party, Dindi Gowa Nyasulu of the Alliance for Democracy, Loveness Gondwe of the
New Rainbow Coalition and an independent aspirant, James Nyondo.
document includes a clause that forbids the contestants to attack each other during campaign rallies.
But observers say on the ground, the candidates are not following the rules.
Mbowela, a political scientist at Mzuzu University, says "It's
quite inauspicious that most political parties are not adhering to the code of
conduct. Instead of campaigning, they are mentioning names, and when they
mention those names, the stories are not very good. They are full of
castigatory remarks and some other very bad comments."
says this does not auger well with free and fair elections that the country is
trying to achieve.
of the political parties admit misconduct.
Chafukira, the spokesperson for the MCP, says "I
think the Malawi Congress Party is the only party that is currently upholding
elements which were in the Code of Conduct one of which is resisting from
making hate speeches on the podium."
says none of the party's rivals has filed a complaint about it.
Chimunthu-Banda is the secretary general of the ruling DPP.
are implementing what was contained and signed in the Code of Conduct. Because
of the free and fair election to take place we need to observe a Code of
Conduct as provided by the Malawi Electoral Commission."
the parties' denials, recent developments confirm that the political leaders
have indeed been attacking each other in their
political rallies. Opposition leader Kamlepo Kaluwa and UDF deputy secretary
general Hophmally Makande were arrested for allegedly demeaning President
Mutharika during a campaign rally.
the president himself, at a political rally, described independent candidates
as hyenas, angering many independent candidates and their supporters.
party's spokesman, Hetherwick Ntaba, downplayed the word, calling it just a
figure of speech.
president," he says, "was equating the conduct of some of these independents who are
actually carrying most of their operations at night. A hyena usually
operates at night because it doesn't want other things to be known by other
members of the surrounding. So as a figure of speech, people should take the
context on what that statement meant."
Lipenga is the spokesperson for the Malawi Electoral Commission. He says the
commission is saddened by tone of the campaign.
continue castigating each other is very unfortunate," says Lipenga. "We would like to urge them
to stop that and abide by the code of conduct. People would like to listen to
issues not castigations. If you reduce castigations, then there will be lesser
possibility of having violence during elections." So it's an appeal to
political parties to abide by the code of conduct for peaceful elections."
the Code of Conduct, DPP, MCP and UDF also signed the Memorandum of Understanding
brokered by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano. It was designed to
guide the political leaders toward a campaign free of violence.
Code of Conduct does not provide penalties for those who break the rules, nor
does it have the power to investigate complaints. The only recourse for an
aggrieved party is to take the matter to court.