Written by Patseni Mauka
Few weeks ago, I wrote an article on the rise of independent candidates in Malawi Parliament. I wrote that most independent candidates do no just wake up and decide to run as independents. They are forced by circumstances within parties. Most of them decide to run as independents after party primaries. This is because of the tendency by parties to impose or be biased towards some candidates. While some decide to run as independents, some party members who are denied justice in primary elections, defect to other parties.
As the undemocratic tendencies continue, a political tsunami resulting from poor primary elections is unfolding in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Typical of DPP under old and frail Professor Peter Mutharika, DPP primary elections have a mark of mafias operating behind the scenes. Many candidates are withdrawing from the elections at the eleventh hour and letting candidates favoured by the party leadership go unopposed. The party leadership is tactfully blocking some aspiring candidates from competing in the primaries. Primary election results for almost all the constituencies in the southern region have been disputed.
As a result, DPP members, who are not happy with the shambolic and unfair primary elections, have mounted a strong resistance. A faction calling itself ‘Patriotic DPP members’ is demanding the resignation of DPP Secretary General Greselder Jeffrey from her position. The faction is accusing the foul mouthed Jeffrey of messing up the elections.
MCP primaries elections have also been catastrophic. Postponements and controversial results have marred the primaries. Just like in DPP, the party leadership decides and approves the winners of primary elections. After being a dictatorship for over 30 years, MCP is obviously struggling with democracy. Due to biased primary elections, Nancy Tembo and Madalitso Kazombo have decided to stand as independents.
The latest protester of MCP’s discriminatory primary elections is Salima North West legislator, iron lady Jessie Kabwila. Refusing to be part of the MCP primary elections circus, she has dumped the party. After consulting her constituents, she has decided to join UTM party, the popular new brand.
As expected, MCP is downplaying the significance of Kabwila’s defection. It says no one can win elections in Salima North constituency without MCP. That’s how popular MCP thinks it is. MCP strangely calls the central region it’s unshakable stronghold. The truth is that MCP is relatively stronger in central region but not invincible.
Apart from losing all five presidential elections since 1994, evidence shows that the number of MCP legislators in the central region has been fluctuating. In fact in the 2009 elections, MCP was walloped and only got 26 out of 72 available seats in the central region. Thus, MCP was not the majority holder of parliamentary seats in what it calls it’s strong hold! So where do MCP fanatics take the idea that you can’t win in the central region or Salima in particular unless you stand on MCP ticket? Their claim is just self-delusion aimed at easing the pain of losing a politician of Kabwila’s calibre. The pain is more unbearable for MCP because Kabwila has joined UTM, a party that has disturbed it’s campaign strategy.
MCP and DPP, the new bedfellows in the campaign to demean UTM, are saying Kabwila and other defectors are joining UTM because it’s the party for the disgruntled and unpopular people. If that is true, why are DPP and MCP spending sleepless nights with UTM?
Before the launch of UTM, MCP and DPP were biggest rivals. But the coming of UTM has changed the whole political arena such that MCP and DPP have inadvertently found themselves in a coalition against UTM. Chilima led UTM is a pain in the backside of deluded strategists who have been lying to Mutharika that DPP will win this year’s elections with a landslide. These lazy strategists don’t know what to do with the new kid in town. UTM has destroyed any DPP hopes of retaining power this year as well as drastically reducing chances for MCP’s victory. MCP and DPP coalition against UTM is an effort to reclaim lost voter support.
These coalition partners celebrated together when the registrar of political parties refused to register UTM as a party. They celebrated because without UTM on the ballot this year, it would be good news to them. Social media wannabe lawyers sympathetic to DPP and MCP lamely argued that UTM would never be registered as a party and would not be on the ballot papers this year. When UTM got registered after several court victories, they woke up with eggs all over their faces.
These coalition partners also agree on copying UTM policies. DPP’s recent occupation has been stealing policies from UTM and implementing them wrongly and haphazardly. When UTM promised to create one million jobs in the first year of its reign, Chakwera suddenly remembered that for the past four and half years, as leader of opposition, he never mentioned that MCP would create a specific number of jobs. He came up with one of his own promises.
Now that members are leaving their parties and joining UTM, these partners in mediocrity are trying hard to downplay the significance. The bad news for DPP and MCP is that UTM is a very attractive and popular brand. Full of visionary alternative policies and led by young, experienced, energetic and hard working Chilima, UTM will give these old parties a run for their money. This will be a year of sweat. Happy new year!