As the fresh presidential election, sanctioned by the Constitution Court, is fast approaching, it is a well known fact that President Peter Mutharika will be the torchbearer of the DPP-UDF electoral alliance in the forthcoming election slated for July 2. The only mindboggling question is who will partner Mutharika as running mate? Taking the alliance into consideration, one might think Atupele Muluzi, who is the leader of United Democratic Front (UDF), automatically qualifies for the running mate slot. But internal politics in the ruling DPP, point to something else. Mind you, adad is unpredictable. Something unprecedented might happen again on 7th May next week.
However, with Mutharika as obvious front-runner of DPP-UDF partnership, the only daunting task the DPP is faced with is that of choosing a running mate. But this is not the case in MCP-UTM alliance. The almost equal political acumen of MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera and UTM’s Saulos Chilima have made the choice of torchbearer to be a very interesting exercise for officials from both camps. To MCP supporters, Chakwera is the best; to UTM supporters, Chilima is the best. And it is this pageantry that makes the bulk of this so called grand alliance to remain fragile.
But one thing is obvious: Chakwera and Chilima will share the top two positions. But, between the two, who is better placed to lead the alliance to victory? Well, on face value, one could argue that MCP is stronger than UTM; therefore, Chakwera must lead the alliance. I am also of the same view, but let’s ponder on upshot of having Chakwera as torchbearer of the alliance.
I say without fear or favour that Chilima is the only presidential candidate who has been approaching the electorate with a national face. It is undeniable fact that the DPP and MCP are constituted on regional and ethnic lines, and therefore, their accumulative votes always reflect that political incorrectness. Therefore, chances are high that the majority of young men, especially those from the south, who voted for Chilima cannot, at all cost, vote for MCP. If Chilima was not on the ballot, they could obviously vote for Peter Mutharika. Similarly, those from the centre could vote for Chakwera if Chilima was not on the ballot. I can’t tell about the north. Now, the point I am driving at, is that the MCP-UTM alliance should expect a loss of good number of votes from the south if Chakwera is on the ballot.
Now, having said that you may be asking “is Chilima the right person to lead the alliance?” My answer is emphatically no! For the sake of achieving the intended purpose of the alliance, Chakwera has to carry the flag despite the aforementioned consequences considering the political developments that have taken place after the May 21 elections. Taking into account the vents that have taken place within the past seven months or so, it is obvious that regional and tribal division will be powerful determinants of the voting pattern in the coming election. This, therefore, presents a challenge to UTM cognizant of the fact that it as an urban phenomenon springing from working-class disillusionment, with few links to the grassroots. Suffice to say, UTM is a product of power struggles within the ruling DPP and has no stranglehold within the country’s three regions.
On the other hand, MCP and DPP have created structures at the grassroots and created links with prominent personalities who have sustained forms of pervasive clientelism and patronage. In view of that, UTM just need to complement one of the two to defeat the perceived common enemy. I, therefore, audaciously say that Chakwera is well positioned politically to lead the alliance, and swallowing pride on the part of UTM supporters is at the moment a necessity.
It is, therefore, the view if this writer that should Chakwera fail to pair with Chilima in an electoral alliance in preparation for the forthcoming fresh election, he and his MCP will still be in opposition after the July 2 2020 and the UTM will automatically be overshadowed by the growing prowess of young leaders of civil society organization that have already assumed the role of the opposition parties in the country’s multiparty democracy. It is therefore incumbent upon the officials of both camps to therefore cement their union and face the advantaged DPP with a unified force. Otherwise, DPP will maintain its grip on power.
Views expressed in this article are those of the author