Politicians defy handouts ban

Most aspirants are still offering handouts to would-be voters ahead of the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

A pre-election observation report by the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) issued on Friday shows the issue of handouts remains a challenge although there has been a reduction—from 28 to 15—of districts that reported the incidents.

Wants Act to be tested: Tenthani

The non-compliance by aspiring candidates is happening almost four months after the Political Parties Act 2018, which outlaws handouts, came into effect.

The report says, between March 24 and April 7 2019, Mesn also found that political parties as well as independent candidates were conducting campaigns in schools during normal working hours.

Further, Mesn findings indicate that some traditional leaders across the country were actively campaigning for specific political parties and candidates.

“In all 54 percent [15] districts, LTOs [long-term observations] observed distribution of handouts as enticements to vote for a party/candidate,” reads the report.

In two districts, Mesn also observed instances where government or State corporation vehicles were being used for campaigning purposes.

Mesn has since asked the Registrar of Political Parties to ensure that political parties refrain from violating the provisions of the Act and perpetrators are disciplined accordingly.

“Political parties must refrain from conducting campaign meetings/rallies in prohibited places as per the Political Parties Act of 2018, namely military units, police stations, public institutions, workplaces or schools during normal working hours,” recommends Mesn.

As part of its observation efforts towards the 2019 Tripartite Elections, Mesn is running a long-term observation (LTO), which will feed into the parallel vote tabulation on the actual day of elections.

Last month, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), which championed the enactment of the law, said according to its findings, some political parties were skirting around the handouts ban by branding foodstuffs with party insignia which they give people to get away with it.

CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani said the Act needed to be tested by reporting the actions to the Registrar of Political Parties.

Section 27 (2) of the Act defines handouts as transactions whereby political parties, bodies, candidates or any other person distributes private goods, cash, gifts and other items to a person as an enticement to vote for the political party or the candidate. n

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