It’s a fact that Malawians who are agitating for change in this country want a grand opposition alliance to boot out the besieged Democratic Progressive Party. In this grand alliance, they mostly want the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to partner with UTM.
In the meantime, both parties have officially announced to the nation that they have formed a task force to discuss the possibility of forming the alliance in question. This is refreshing news.
In this article, I would like to put forward a model for an alliance involving these two parties where I propose that it must involve the trio of MCP President Dr Lazarus Chakwera, his deputy Sidik Mia and the UTM President Saulos Chilima. Reaching this far, one would say that this is a complex calculus to solve. I agree but it is doable. I urge you, as you go through the write-up, to more importantly pay attention to the justification behind the proposal this model so provides. As a disclaimer, I don’t intend to demean anyone in this discourse and if it so turns out, I want the consumer of this write-up to ignore such weakness but rather concentrate and/or critique the advanced proposal(s). Let’s go!
In my view and probably also the view of many like-minded Malawians, we consider it axiomatic to postulate that Malawi Congress Party (MCP), is, unless things change in the near future, a strong party and UTM a junior party with potential to come of age in years to come, all conditions constant that is. To substantiate this fact, the performance of the annulled presidential election tells it all. Dr Lazarus Chakwera of MCP got roughly one million and seven hundred thousand votes whereas Chilima got roughly one million votes. On the part of MPs, MCP got over 50 MPs and if we add the independent members who joined MCP, the number of MCP MPs now are close to 70 in Parliament. On the other hand, UTM got 4 MPs. These facts; these statistics cited show that a good number of Malawians wanted Chakwera to lead as President of the republic of Malawi as opposed to Chilima, that is if we leave out the embattled President Peter Mutharika of DPP.
This being politics and on account of the strength of the party, Chakwera, in my considered view, ought to earn the right of being a torchbearer of any possible alliance between MCP and UTM.
However, one thing must also be made very clear: much as UTM is, in my view, not as strong as compared to MCP as evidenced by the number of MPs it got; Chilima as an individual is undoubtedly a strong candidate hence I consider him a king-maker in such possible alliance and in the present political environment. In the annulled presidential election, he put up a gallant fight, he energized his support base and getting one million votes wasn’t a joke. He earned for himself political respect after being sidelined by the DPP. It’s now a settled question that Chilima, whether one likes it or not, is a political force to reckon with in this country, at least for now. This is the sole reason why Malawians want an alliance between MCP and UTM to deal with torturous DPP once and for all.
In terms of who has a better vision for our country, I contend that Dr Chakwera and Dr Chilima are at par. Other people would argue that Chakwera has better vision for our country than Chilima. Others would argue the vice-versa. This is akin to a debate football fanatics the world over have as regards Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The bottom line is that both Chakwera and Chilima are good in their own right just like Messi and Ronaldo are as well. What, in my view, is separating the two are the strength of their respective parties as already explained.
So if settled that Chakwera should be the presidential candidate for the alliance, then does it follow that Chilima should be his running-mate? This model says NO. Chilima should not be Chakwera’s running-mate. Why?
Well, Chilima supporters and most well-meaning Malawians think Chilima can be the game changer—like the missing piece in the jig-saw puzzle for the development of this project called Malawi. He can be the catalyst to bring the prosperity Malawians want to see. I share the same sentiments.
However, I contend that making Chilima vice president would not give Chilima the platform for Malawians to exploit his full potential. Chilima would continue to be a liability, a burden to tax-payers as vice president. Why? We Malawians including Chilima himself know that the vice presidency in our country is an inconsequential position. Useless position. This is a delegated position. You wait for your boss, the President to give you something to do.
If the relationship between the President and the Veep is sour as it is now, the Vice president is reduced to a lame duck status. In the words of Chilima himself, the veep is reduced to a non-functional status only existing on paper but with zero impact on the ground.
Those who strain the relationship between the President and the vice president are those who surround the President. It has happened at least since Cassim Chilumpha days till now. Vice Presidency, in this current legal configuration in this country, is a liability to tax-payers money… a poisoned chalice. If Chilima can accept to be running-mate of Dr Chakwera, it would mean he simply wants to serve his interests as an individual and not the interests of the nation. This is the case because we can’t expect him, as vice president, in the next five years, to be a functional vice president when the trend has been horrible for the past former vice presidents to date.
It is against this background that this alliance model proposes that Chilima, in this alliance, should be made prime minister. This means that after winning the election, the MCP-UTM led government should amend necessary laws to provide for the office of the Prime Minister. This will be someone responsible for the operations of government with clear constitutional or statutory duties, responsibilities and power. This should be an arrangement where the prime-minister, once appointed should never be un-appointed but serve for the rest of the term of the President. This arrangement, would be a win-win arrangement for MCP-UTM supporters and more importantly, a win for Malawi.
Now that Chakwera would be the presidential candidate and Chilima the prime-minister in this model, then who would be Chakwera’s running-mate? In this alliance model, I propose that the alliance presidential candidate, in this case Chakwera, should be given the prerogative to appoint his running-mate.
At this juncture, the model proposes that Chakwera, in exercise of his prerogative power, should still maintain his choice of picking Honorable Sidik Mia as running-mate. Why? A running-mate, in my view, should be someone one can feel comfortable to work closely with…someone the Presidential candidate enjoys bromance with. I think, in this respect, Mia remains a perfect candidate.
This model considers not only Mia as a perfect candidate for running-mate position in a possible alliance with UTM but also important for the unity of this country. Remember, one of the pillars of the Chakwera High-5 agenda is to unite the country. Granted, both Chakwera and Chilima hails from the central region. Having a Chakwera-Chilima ticket would be to confirm fears the people from the southern region are been made to have that MCP and UTM want to wrestle leadership from the region and that they should not allow that to happen. This explains the quick DPP-UDF alliance to lock-up the region and take the battle to their opponent base(s).
If we have Sidik Mia in the alliance configuration as running-mate, that move would send a strong signal that both Chakwera and Chilima are serious about the rhetoric of uniting our country. It would also mean a serious attempt to get a significant number of votes from the region. The north has Catherine Gotani Hara as Speaker of the National Assembly—an arm of government. This, in my view, is enough for the northern region. We need a figure from the southern region in this possible alliance and in my view, it is only Mia from the Shire Valley whom the cap is perfectly fitting.
We have made a winning and meaningful grand opposition alliance taking into consideration the matrix of unity and competent leaders to move the country forward. Shall this alliance fail to materialize, whether based on this model or a different model from this; it’s either DPP-UDF alliance may somehow win the fresh elections or if they fail to garner 50% plus one votes, then MCP will square off with DPP in the second round where UTM might be a spectator. In this case, UTM may not have a good bargaining power with MCP than they now have. I rest my case.
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