Surely a presidential debate is a no brainer. For the voter it’s a great way to see the candidates side by side and weigh up their different qualities and policies. For the candidate it gives them a platform to reach a large portion of the country and deliver their message. If they’re truly presidential material the candidates should be more than up to a debate. So let’s get the ball rolling.
Of course there was a debate during the last election in January 2015 but a notable absence in the shape of President Lungu. This obviously took the edge off the debate, being one of the two major contenders and eventual victor. Nevertheless, it was an interesting exercise and it is clear that the majority of citizens appreciated being able to watch the candidates discuss the important issues. Encouragingly the result was a very civilized, if not perfectly polished, debate.
A debate in 2016 is more important than ever. The campaign period has seen repeated accusations from the opposition that the media environment is heavily biased against them. The PF government has naturally disputed this point but what better way to address this concern than through a live, public debate between Lungu and Hichilema? This time around it is clearly a two-horse race so they must both attend if the debate is to serve its purpose and they must let themselves be seen side-by-side discussing the issues so that we the voters can decide for ourselves in an unedited, unbiased forum who is made of the right stuff. It’ll be nerve-wracking for them to go head-to-head but if they want to win the confidence of the people then they’re going to have to find the courage.