Malawi’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Peter Mutharika has snubbed the first phase of the presidential debates to be held this evening at Bingu International Conference Centre in the capital, Lilongwe.
Mutharika’s personal assistant Ben Phiri confirmed to The Nation saying his boss would miss today’s programme due to logistical challenges but will participate in the subsequent debates scheduled for April 29 and May 6 in Lilongwe and Blantyre respectively.
“We just got the questions and confirmation of the date on Sunday. Actually I am the one who got the letter and by then we had already made our other programmes for Monday and Tuesday as you know this is campaign period.
“So we have told them that due to the short notice we will be unable to participate in today’s debate but we will be available for the subsequent ones. Internationally, the tradition is that these questions are given to participants at least two weeks before the day to prepare,” he explained.
Ruling People’s Party president Joyce Banda already pulled out of the country’s first ever presidential debates, which have been endorsed by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and are being chaired by the National Media Institute of Southern Africa (Namisa), citing clash of programmes.
President Banda’s party said their leader has a tight campaign schedule and the debates’ dates are crashing with some of her programmes.
The party also said they realised that most of the topics to be discussed during the debates could be addressed through other forums including campaign rallies.
The presidential debates, which will be conducted in vernacular language (Chichewa), are being funded by Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) while the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is providing technical support.
Today’s debate will start from 6:30pm and will be broadcast live on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) radio stations and Times Television.
Nation Publications Limited will also be tweeting live the event. High profile experts are expected to give insight and analyse some of the issues that will be raised during the debate through Nation social media platforms; Twitter (@MalawiNation) and Facebook/MalawiNation.