MCP’s and UTM’s publicity secretaries Rev Maurice Munthali and Dr. Chidanti Malunga respectively,

By Cydric Damala

The by-elections scheduled for the 10th of November, 2020 are a make or break for political alliances, especially the governing Tonse Alliance. After the June 23 elections which were contested by two main blocks led by MCP and DPP, the real test of its survival lies in how they handle the forthcoming elections. It is safe to argue that the June Fresh Elections suffered no intra-alliance squabbles as partners only had their presidential torch bearers to campaign for. This helped alliance partners to keep focus on the contesting pair unlike in tripartite elections where parties in alliance also campaign for specific candidates for parliamentary as well as local government seats.  

The forthcoming by-elections however, present a real test to the strength of the alliances that were sealed towards the 2020 fresh elections.

Of the five constituencies of Phalombe North, Mangochi West, Mangochi North East, Lilongwe North West and Karonga Central that are being contested, it is the latter that presents a real test for partners in the Tonse alliance especially to their forerunners in the name of the Malawi Congress Party and UTM party.

 Since 2009, the constituency has gone through spells of political turmoil as a result of close contests by their ‘giant’ parliamentary candidates Frank Mwenefumbo and late Cornelius Mwalwanda. Since then, the constituency has alternated the two as their Members of Parliament.  In the latest election of June 2019, Frank Mwenefumbo of then AFORD lost by a margin of 91 votes to late Mwalwanda of MCP. That rivalry is likely to resurface with Mwenefumbo set to stand on a UTM ticket and Leonard Mwalwanda, nephew to the departed legislator Cornelius having passed the test of primary elections to represent MCP.

News on the ground has it that Mwenefumbo, a constituency veteran, who won twice to represent the area from 2004 to 2009 and 2014 to 2019, has his popularity intact. He adds to that with a UTM tag that seems to be penetrating the northern region at a rocket speed after defecting from AFORD. He is not a minnow by any political standards. Mwalwanda on the other hand brings with himself the love affair of his uncle who was the immediate incumbent and greatest rival to Mwenefumbo. He banks his fortunes, largely, on this and his party’s visibility in the area.

While the battle will be fought at the constituency level, the effects shall be felt by their sponsoring political parties at a larger scale. Having lost the constituency through death of its incumbent, MCP feels it is the rightful team to reclaim a seat robbed from them by fate. The mood in the MCP camp is that of superiority over UTM by virtue of them leading the Tonse alliance.  The UTM camp on the other hand, thinks their grip on the northern region gives then an upper hand to carry the day through their candidate who boasts of a long-time relationship with the constituents and previous incumbency. None of the two parties and candidates as well expect a loss, one would easily see.

Given this scenario and knowing how we practice our politics, it is not so surprising to see this culminate into a campaign that is characterized by foul mouthing, blatant attacks and a rebirth of a period of uncivil political behavior. On social media, battle lines have already been drawn.

It is becoming clear for those who follow posts by MCP and UTM sympathizers, that the Tonse honeymoon is undergoing a great test-the fresh election romance is losing its heat.  This temptation has not spared the political players on the ground.  It is on record that tension has already arisen between the MCP and UTM campaign teams with each block spitting venom and sowing seeds of divisions with the aim of outsmarting the other.  How the two parties come out of these by elections seems not promising to the sustainability of the Tonse mantra beyond its top leadership. The events so far do not point to good news.

Neutrals are however, failing to see any merit in this new twist. For all that Tonse alliance stands for; the expectation of those in support of the philosophy in these elections is squarely to increase parliamentary numbers so as to successfully make the push in parliament. Those genuinely for the Tonse agenda do not see this as a fight for individual supremacy. To them what matters is a win for the alliance candidate regardless of which partner ushers them.

Unless Malawians were promised a dummy, followers should stop expecting high standards of political tolerance and unity as promised and demonstrated during the June 23 Fresh Presidential Elections.  Otherwise, it is too soon, more so unexpected by the optimists, for the alliance partners to start trading barbs instead of uniting towards fulfilling the promises made during the campaign.

After all the battle in the constituency will not only be won or be lost by MCP and UTM without a fight from other parties. The messages that President Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice Saulos Chilima will deliver in Karonga Central in support of their respective candidates will redefine the trajectory of the Tonse Alliance.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer’s and do not reflect the views of The Maravi Post or Publisher.

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