Malawi is Bedlam. Since the nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election results by the Constitutional Court and subsequent amendments of relevant electoral laws, political parties, their jingoists and even self-styled political analysts and schemers have gone into a state of delirium. I have, too.
With the 50 percent-plus-one system of electing presidents now sanitised, replacing the fraudulent first-past-the-post which made us, regrettably, have unpopular presidents, political parties have been pushed in desperation to have marriages of convenience.
One was announced this week. After all that had happened between them during the run-up to last year’s elections and after the polls, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) have sealed an alliance which President Peter Mutharika “hopes will lead into a coalition.”
On the other hand, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM are behaving like some tongue-tied-yet-proud lad who is very shy to ask out a lassie next door. Slow like the chameleon. Of course they say those in haste do fall. Perhaps MCP and UTM await vindication for their laggardness.
The parties are conscious that they all do not have the numbers to get the “dreaded” 50 percent + 1. That is why UDF and the over-confident DPP, which had the illusion of having landslide victory but only ended up slightly one foot ahead in a heavily contentious election which the court nullified leaving the party with eggs all over its face, have decided to form an alliance at a supersonic speed.
The union of DPP and UDF is not shocking. We all know that DPP was deceptively born from UDF and the two have had a working relationship in Parliament since 2014 and sometime around 2018, when it was clear that UDF’s tsar Atupele Muluzi would be snubbed and would not be Mutharika’s running mate.
Of course, the running mate is always a coveted title simply because if your party wins elections, you attain the overrated yet useless and ceremonial position of Vice-President. Malawi has proven about the office.
So, without rehashing too much, those who have been around longer know that UDF would be too quick to offer itself to the highest bidder. There are reasons. UDF is a party which, as its sire prophesised, “worn out like curtains”.
Once upon a time, UDF was colossal and had never lost elections, and only went out of the government because of the deceptive move by the late Bingu wa Mutharika who dumped the party which sponsored him to create the DPP. Since then, UDF, on the watch of the nonchalant Atupele Muluzi has been dragged into a mire of ignominy, and the party has since inserted the word ‘defeat’ in its lexicon.
Apart from the Invisible Hand which we all know constantly pushes Atupele into making decisions, Atupele has been a willing student of political lechery.
Once upon a time, Atupele came onto the scene with a fantastic and impressive movement called Agenda for Change. And the agenda had the youth drooling over it. Sadly, excessive love for power made him a changed agenda after joining the People’s Party (PP) for a position in the Cabinet. That was the beginning of the end.
It was after then that he quickly jumped into Peter Mutharika’s Cabinet after the 2014 elections which the former was declared the winner. As he did with PP’s Joyce Banda, Atupele went on to contest against a leader under which he had served in Cabinet. He ended up losing miserably.
While he was busy enjoying the plush life of Cabinet, his supporters became miserable as they saw the party dying. So, to be honest, Atupele came into the alliance with a UDF that is pushing up its daisies and only waiting for Judgement Day.
The DPP, too, should have found a better bedfellow if it had a clean record. But when deep down you know you are a party that has become unpopular and unattractive because of a massive resume of corruption, impunity, tribalism and general State capture, you cannot attract a worthy partner. You would go for the cheapest political harlot and, boom, union sealed and consummated.
All the massive celebration about the union in the blue camp is just to create a verisimilitude of relevance and triumph when the truth is known that things are not ok.
Talk in town right now is the expected union of UTM and MCP. Those who wish the parties go into alliance are saying they are taking too long to agree and the elections might be too close for them.
The leaders of the two parties have subtly talked about the union. But when you have two groups with bigger-than-you attitude, no relationship can work.
MCP knows it is the oldest party on the land and has the numbers. It might have a conviction that it cannot go into an alliance with a nascent party, which only managed four Members of Parliament and its maiden participation in an election, with weaker bargaining power. On the other hand, UTM might be thinking that by virtue that their leader has tasted the presidency, he cannot allow to be second to one who has never.
Now, throughout the elections case, UTM leader Saulos Chilima and MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera cut some confident leaders who, by being at the court daily, had the tenacity and resilient spirit of uniting to defeat a system that continues to torture Malawians.
I had a gut feeling that somehow it was an intimacy of deprived souls after both were not declared winner of the polls. It is now time for the two to prove themselves if they think Malawi-first other than their egos and the splendour that comes with the highest office on the land.
Chakwera and Chilima seem to have forgotten what would have become of their political careers had the Constitutional Court determined otherwise in the presidential election case.
For Chakwera, his ambitions for the presidency would have died since the MCP constitution does not give a third chance to one who has led the party to two consecutive defeats. Perhaps, they could have amended the statutes to allow their popular leader give it another try.
Chilima could surely have found it difficult to sustain his UTM to the next elections which would have been in 2024. They have conveniently forgotten this.
Chilima is 47 years old and has time ahead of him while Chakwera is 64 and if he wins the presidency twice, he would retire at the advanced age of 74. But then, good leadership is not dependent of age. On the other hand, Chilima might be looking in the mirrors of our history about how things change and the Vice-President becomes a pariah as he did in the DPP-led government.
MCP and UTM have a huge load to discuss and what, many hope must insistently resonate in their talks, is the mantra, Malawi first.