Saturday, May 18, 2024

Much ado…

If you’re afraid,

don’t do it;

If you’re doing it,

don’t be afraid

Genghis Khan

With Malawi a few weeks shy of the May 20 D-Day everyone has become an expert on how the voting will go. Everyone has become experts in elections, analysts on how certain fundamentals will influence the voting pattern.

Soothsayers and naysayers are also not in short supply. In almost every bar, church, synagogue, newsrooms, homes…you name it…there are pundits on elections. Indeed predicting the elections has become a national pastime.

It all started with self-styled prophets tipping the elections one way or the other. The only trouble is that these ‘anointed’ men of God do not seem to get their gift of discernment from the same Big Kahuna in the Skies because if they were they would surely be agreeing on one candidate.

Look, there have been quite a few who have tipped Peter Mutharika or Atupele Muluzi to carry the day on the other side of May 20. They all couch their prophecies in holy titbits. A good number of them have also smiled at Joyce Banda or Lazarus Chakwera at different times.

People are extrapolating their prophecies, call them predictions or wishes, from all manner of fundamentals. Those experts who wish Peter to win do not have to look further than his late brother’s supposed success on the agriculture front. It’s food, stupid!

Those on Ama’s corner, too, have plenty of fodder to look at. We were spending nights on service stations looking for fuel that was never there, they argue. You applied for US $100 in a bank, it took three weeks only for the bank to tell you there was no forex. Now you just drive to a filling station or walk into a bank and you come back smiling a few minutes later. Who wants to go back to ‘Egypt’? They argue.

Atupele, too, has his own selling points. The youth vote is king, his pundits argue. The young man does not have to say or do anything; his youthfulness will deliver the vote, pure and simple.

Those rooting for Abusa Chakwera have plenty of sound bites as well. People are tired of traditional politicians, the other Abusa calls them ripe mbatata that cannot be straightened! Here is a man of God untainted by corruption and greed, Malawians will look no further. It is Abusa’s day in the sun, fair and square!

It seems Malawians are spoilt for choice as to what school of thought to fall for once in the polling booth on May 20.

As if these prophets, soothsayers or naysayers and analysts and election experts are not enough there is a new fad in town – opinion polls. Like the prophecies before them, we are being entertained by half a dozen opinion polls, all predicting different electoral outcomes.

But there is one poll that sent tongues wagging during the best part of the past week. Perhaps it is because it was published in a respectable national newspaper.

A hitherto unknown company, going by the trendy name Research Tech Consultants, published an opinion poll that gave Joyce Banda 42 percent of the national vote.

This raised quite a ruckus with the opposition dismissing the polls as a fallacy while analysts were divided. While some analysts called the poll a reflection of what is obtaining on the ground others were quick to take the pollster to the cleaners with some faulting it for having no website (as if that is a must-have!) Others even questioned the lead consultant’s disjointed grammar. Wow!

Researchers and statisticians came out of the woodwork discussing the sampling and methodology used, all these in an effort to discredit the poll.

I asked a politician on the opposition side why they are losing sleep over a mere opinion poll. “If People’s Party sponsored what you believe is a phantom win why not let them delude themselves and let them contend with the shock on the other side of May 20?” I reasoned.

“You’re being naïve,” this guy schooled me. “These are mind games, it’s psychological warfare.”

His further explanation was quite interesting. He said the poll was aimed at some gullible anti-Joyce voters who will see no point in turning out to vote since their preferred candidates will lose anyway.

This is interesting indeed. I wondered if it may not cut both ways: if opposition supporters may be discouraged to vote can it not pass that pro-Joyce voters may also feel complacent and see no reason to vote?

But I let it pass. I did not want to prolong the argument for oftentimes politicians think in a straight-jacket manner. Once they hold an opinion you need a pipe-wrench (mbombojana) to prise that opinion off their mind.

But I was left musing to myself: are we voters that unsophisticated that we may be influenced to act in a certain way simply because of an opinion poll, be it sham or authentic? Interesting game, politics!


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