Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has seriously condemned the behaviour of some traditional leaders who are reportedly endorsing their preferred candidates ahead of 21st May, 2019 tripartite elections.
The chief elections officer Sam Alfandika: Chiefs are not allowed to be partisan
The electoral body emphasizes that 'this behavior is unacceptable and unlawful'.
A statement relased by the commission on Tuesday 12th May 2019 made available to Nyasa Times reminds Chiefs that as much as they are entitled to exercise their political rights just like any other citizen, but such rights accrue to the
chiefs as individuals and private citizens.
"In their capacity as traditional leaders, Chiefs are not allowed to be partisan and should, therefore, not affiliate themselves to political parties or candidates with the intention of influencing their subjects' political choices," reads part of the statement signed by Chief Elections Officer Sam Alufandika.
The Commission has since consequently written the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to strongly advise all Chiefs in the country to desist the conduct condemned above.
"This conduct is blatant violation of the Chiefs' Code of Conduct during elections and is a violation of the law that governs elections. All Chiefs are also hereby informed that in accordance with section 58 of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act, every public officer or entity or authority has a duty to give and to be seen to give
equal treatment to all political parties and candidates to enable each political party and candidates to conduct campaign freely," the statement reads.
Section 115 (b) (iv) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act, it is an offence punishable by a fine of K500,000.00 and to imprisonment for two years for any person who denies any political party or candidate equal treatment with any other political party or candidate.
"It is, therefore, the expectation of the Commission that during the period towards the campaign and during the official campaign period itself, Chiefs will refrain from endorsing candidates, otherwise the Commission will be compelled to treat such conduct as an offence warranting prosecution ," warns the statement.
The Commission therefore said it expects that once official campaign commences, Chiefs will not hinder campaign activities of any candidate or political party in their respective areas.
"Chiefs are reminded that all political parties and candidates have the right to campaign in an election and that the authority to coordinate campaign meetings in public places is vested in District 3 Commissioners and Chief Executive Officers in conjunction with the Officers-In-Charge of Police at District and City Council level,"the statement said.
According to the Republic of Malawi and Electoral Laws, Chiefs do not have the power to deny any candidate or political party the right to conduct campaign in any part of Malawi.