Malawi: Code of conduct

Updated June 2006

The Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act (1993, 61(2)) tasks the Electoral Commission with the establishment of a code of conduct binding on political parties in their conduct of election campaigns. Accordingly the Electoral Commission of Malawi (undated) has issued the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections: Political Party Code of Conduct ("Code"). The Code is legally binding as a regulation issued by the Electoral Commission and can be enforced through legal sanctions.

The purpose of the Code is "to promote conditions that are conducive to a free and fair election that include tolerance for democratic debate and political activity and for the free expression of individual opinions and beliefs" (Section 1).

Public commitments

All political parties, candidates, members and supporters are expected to display, advertise and promote the code (Section 2). Parties and candidates are expecteed to abide by the Code, to instruct there members, supporters and officials to abide by it and to enforce it on them (Section 3). They must also publically declare the right of all to:

  • Freedom of beliefs.
  • Debate the views of others and present alternatives.
  • Publish, distribute and post campaign materials.
  • Erect banners, billboards, placards and posters.
  • Canvas for support.
  • Recruit members.
  • Hold public meetings and rallies.
  • Travel and attend public events.

Parties must commit themselves to accept the results of the elections or to challenge them in court (section 7).

Meetings

Parties or candidates must inform the police and the local authorities of the times and venues of public events to enable traffic control and maintenance of peace and order (Section 5(1)). They must ascertain before hand if there are any restrictions in force and comply with them scrupulously or apply for exemption timeously (Section 5(2)). Organisers may not deal with disruptors of meetings themselves, but seek the intervention of the police (Section 5(3)). Parties are prohibited from organising public events close to one another on the same day (Section 5(4)).

Prohibitions

Parties and candidates are prohibited from using official positions to campaign and in particular from the use of official visits by government officials or state transport for electioneering (Section 6 (i)). Public facilities such as meeting venues and helicopters must be made available to all parties on the same terms as the party in power (Section 6 (ii)).

The use of state funds to finance adverts in the mass-media and the use of state owned media for partisan election coverage is prohibited (Section 6 (iii)). From the time that elections are announced candidates, parties, Ministers and other authorities are prohibited from (Section 6 (iv-v)):

  • Announcing the paying grants out of discretionary funds.
  • Laying foundation stones for projects.
  • Promising infrastructure developments.
  • Making ad hoc appointments aimed at influencing voter behaviour.

Only candidates and authorised agents are permitted in polling stations (Section 6 (vi)). Further measures include prohibitions on (Section (vi)):

  • Acts forbidden by the Constitution or electoral laws.
  • Language or behaviour that incites violence or intimidation.
  • The publication of defamatory material.
  • Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, class or religion.
  • The abuse of social, economic or political power to influence voter behaviour.
  • The defacement or removal of election material.
  • The toleration of any form of intimidation or violence.
  • Interference with the police in the performance of their duties.

Cooperation

Parties are enjoined to cooperate with one another and to appoint officials to deal with problems as they arise (Section 9(1)). Parties must further cooperate with law enforcers in recovering weapons of violence and the arrest of their possessors (Section 9(2)). Parties and candidates must ensure freedom of access to opponents to private and public property (Section 10).

Parties must cooperate with the Electoral Commission by (Section 11):

  • Recognising the authority and duty of the Commission to conduct free and fair elections and to issue the Code.
  • Implementing the decisions of the Commission and its agents.
  • Facilitating access by the Commission or its representatives to public events.
  • Cooperating with investigations of the Commission.
  • Ensuring the safety of the Commission members or its agents in the performance of their duties.
  • Ensuring that opponents can freely attend meetings called by the Commission.

Parties and candidates are expected to recognise the role that the media plays at election time, to allow access of the media to public events and to ensure that members of the media are not subjected to harassment, intimidation, danger, threat or assault (Section 12).

Enforcement

Parties and candidates must accept the right of the Commission to enforce the Code through (Section 13):

  • Negotiation, conflict resolution and Multiparty Liaison Committees.
  • The issuing of warnings, directives and cease and desist orders.
  • The imposition of reasonable fines.
  • The disqualification of parties or candidates.
  • The enforcement of penalties prescribed in election law.

Parties that are aggrieved by a fine or a disqualification may appeal against the sanction to the High Court within seven days of its imposition.

Section 14 of the Code reiterates the electoral offences laid out in the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act (1993, 115-116).

References

PARLIAMENTARY AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ACT 31 OF 1993.

ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF MALAWI UNDATED, "Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections: Political Party Code of Conduct".

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