ConCourt Judges
justices Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga and Redson Kapindu

With Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

Malawi changed ruling parties nearly nine months ago in an election rerun that left a sour taste in the mouths of DPP supporters. The 2019 elections were set aside for, according to the courts, two reasons: first irregularities, and secondly failure to fulfil the 50% + 1 concept.

To most DPP supporters, these reasons were problematic because the 2020 elections results ended up mirroring the 2019 results. The only difference between the two being that there were coalitions in 2020. So, if two elections ended with the similar results, and the 2020 elections being certified as free of any vote tampering, then it should go without saying that vote tampering was also unlikely in 2019 … otherwise the results would be different.

Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

Second, since the adoption of the new constitution, no president has won an election with 50% + 1 majority. It would seem that the right thing would be for the courts, having come up with this new interpretation, to kick the implementation forward to 2024 because it would be unfair to annul only one of the many elections won in a similar manner.

Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

As far as DPP supporters were concerned, this court ruling was an injustice that would definitely be corrected in 2025. Thus, as March 2021 supplementary elections to fill vacant seats approached, DPP readied themselves to prove their popularity once and for all. The rest, as they say, is history. On election day, not only did DPP fail to grab new seats in the supplementary election, but they also actually lost seats.

Perhaps it should not be surprising that the ruling coalition won all the parliamentary seats. That’s to be expected. But that’s also for the same reason incumbent presidents almost always win re-election. However, to the extent that DPP want to unseat the ruling MCP and had always thought of themselves capable of doing so, the result was a surprise.

So, what went wrong? The Monday morning quarterbacking within the party has already begun, and as is usually the case, reality has been thrown out of the window.

Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

It has been said that the only reliable opinion poll is the actual vote. Supplementary parliamentary elections are a bellwether of the presidential election; they are a barometer that does not lie. The results of the supplementary parliamentary elections tell us several facts that one can take straight to the bank. First, beating Chakwera, though certainly not impossible, will be tougher than what most DPP folks think. A DPP well positioned to beat Chakwera in 2025 should be winning rather than losing seats.

Second, DPP needs a popular presidential candidate. Being known or popular within DPP circles is not enough. Beating Chakwera will involve convincing a substantial amount of non DPP voters to vote for DPP. That means, DPP needs a charismatic crowd puller. That all DPP presidential aspirants went out in full force to campaign for parliamentary candidates but failed to convince voters, is a strong sign of trouble for the party.

The many DPP candidates and surrogates who went to campaign in the lower Shire were effectively countered by one MCP surrogate, Hon Abida Mia. Her campaign was strong and concise with one believable promise, “If you elect my candidate, I will build a clinic”. Voters believed her. In politics, it is always important to remember that campaigns are not won on experience or past achievements; experience and past achievements are too overrated. Rather, campaigns are won on strong believable promises. If campaigns were won on past achievements, George HW Bush would have easily won re-election. After all he had just won the famous first Gulf war.

Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

Third, DPP cannot topple Chakwera unless they are united. To this end, it is important for the party machinery to emphasize more on rebuilding party unity and structures. And perhaps it would be better, for the moment, to tone down on the infighting and intra-campaigning for the party presidential position; a position which, according to the party constitution, is not even yet available at the moment.

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