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Open lock primaries

“Political necessities
sometimes turn out
to be
political mistakes”
George Bernard Shaw

 It seems the People’s Party took its ‘open lock’ symbol a bit too literally.

What was the ruling party thinking to open up its primaries to all and sundry? It beggars belief what political strategy the party had adopted.

Look, the essence of holding party primary elections is for delegates or party members to express themselves as to which person best represents the party, its policies, ideas, ideals, principles – or to put it simply – its guiding ideology.

For instance, delegates of the Democratic Party in the US had to choose who between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton best represented what the Democrats stood for. That is why it was not every Jim and Jack who called himself a Democrat who was allowed to make this choice on behalf of the party. It was the ‘delegate’ who formed the ‘electoral college’.

Those who form these ‘electoral colleges’ are office bearers of the party like constituency chairmen, secretaries, women or youth representatives and such like. These delegates are deemed to have sufficient knowledge of what their party stands for so much so that they can “judge” who, among the aspirants, would best serve their party’s interests.

It is, therefore, mind-boggling what PP strategists were high on to allow every constituent, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in its primaries.

So you would have a person who had no clue what the ‘open lock’, the ruling party’s symbol, means on its flag voting for an individual to represent the party in Parliament. How can that be?

Look, when one is campaigning for primary elections, or indeed any elective position at a party convention, one does not hold open mass rallies to woe voters. One visits party delegates who will vote at the primary elections. So one would go to an area within the constituency and literally meet only four or seven people in the area committee as these are the only people allowed to vote.

Have you ever seen a person conducting a mass rally wooing people to vote for him in party primaries? Only a lunatic would do that because not all the people at the mass rally may be delegates or even that person’s party members.

Primary election campaign must be targeted at – and be exclusive for – those that form the electoral college. So for PP to allow all and sundry to vote at its primary elections is really madness of the highest order.

But, that said, why would a party with very respectable people in its rank and file who are not schizophrenic make such a mad decision?

Several factors may be at play here.

Firstly, perhaps most importantly, the orange party had no clue as to how to constitute an ‘electoral college’ because it has no structures on the ground. So, with no structures and no office bearers, the party could not think of how to come up with an electoral college since everybody would dispute it.

In that case, a lesser evil would be to open up – true to its ‘open lock’ symbol – hoping such fishing expedition may yield a desirable candidate.

After all, so the thinking at the party headquarters at Manase could have gone, the next party too does not have a mechanism of recruiting and registering members any way. All parties in Malawi, Wakuda Kamanga could have whispered to Paul Maulidi, do not have members, but rather supporters.

So why not just open up the primaries to each and every registered voter in the constituency and hope that each one of them will vote the same come May 20?

Or may be it was not such a crazy idea after all? May be PP was doing a ‘dry run’, some kind of a ‘mock general election’ so as to check how strong or weak it is.

But PP must be ruing such a crazy decision looking at how the mighty in its rank and file have fallen. Look, you cannot have whole party spokespeople, campaign directors and secretaries general, to say nothing of cabinet members, falling by the way side. It means something did not go right somewhere.

By literally actualising its ‘open lock’ policy PP opened itself up to infiltration from other interests.

This is how I mean: DPP, UDF or MCP have their preferred candidates in all constituencies across the country. Given a chance to vote in PP primaries, shrewd DPP, UDF or MCP types will surely rally behind weak ruling party candidates who would be mince meat for their preferred candidates during the actual national vote.

Did the PP strategists and backroom staff not think about these things when planning for the primaries? Just look at how the ‘mighty’ have fallen in the primaries. PP has scored an own goal for trying to be clever.

Now, less than five months to D-Day, the ruling party – accidental as it sadly is – has to strategise how to clean up the mess. Some of the crème la crème in the party have tumbled during the primaries because of the ill advised, if not – excuse the crude term, stupid ‘open lock’ policy.

The bigwigs that have tumbled will not go without a fight. They will take their route to Parliament via the ‘Independence Drive’ if you get my drift.

This, ask one Bakili Muluzi, will spell doom for the ruling party.

The party’s has belatedly realised that it was being stupid all along and has belatedly abandoned the ‘open lock’ policy mid-stream. But this may not benefit it anything. Changing the system mid-stream is disastrous for all those who have lost with the ‘open lock’ policy will – justifiably, I dare say – demand re-runs.

Look, they will be justified to claim that they lost due to a faulty process and therefore demand ‘justice’ or go solo should Manase reject their demands.

The party has boxed itself in a ‘lose-lose’ situation because rejecting to re-run the primaries or doing them will still leave the party bruised. If they re-run the primaries and those who won during the faulty first round lose they will not accept the results and go solo.

So whatever decision the party will take it will still come out wilth egg all over its face. Whatever may have been the reasoning behind this ‘open lock’ madness the results are a train wreck, trust me.

PP strategists must stop procrastinating and accept that they goofed big time. But they can still salvage the situation if they handle the ‘losers’ properly.

Statements by the party CEO Paul Maulidi that the primaries sieved chaff from wheat are not helpful for they will only succeed in angering the losers even more. To prove that they are not chaff they will not be talked out of going solo.

Ask Bakili Muluzi what independents can do to a party.


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