President Peter Mutharika is engaging United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Atupele Muluzi for a possible coalition with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to bolster his chances of remaining in power after fresh presidential polls in five months’ time.
Sources from DPP and UDF who corroborated each other but opted for anonymity, said, on February 6 and 10 2020, Mutharika held talks with Muluzi where they discussed ways on how their two parties can formally work together in the forthcoming elections following the Constitutional Court ruling that nullified May 21 2019 presidential election.
However, Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani said he has no information on that alleged meeting.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi also said he is not aware of any meeting of the two leaders.
UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo he could not come clear whether the UDF president had meetings with Mutharika.
“It may be false. It could be true. But, in this time, we expect our leader to meet and discuss with leaders of various political parties. As a president, our constitution gives him the mandate to explore and asses. The National Executive Committee makes the final decision and paves way for formal discussions,” he said.
Pandambo, however, confirmed that the party has scheduled meetings this coming weekend on various matters including partnership options in the fresh elections.
“The NEC meeting has been scheduled to discuss various matters including partnership options in the wake of judicial clarification of what the term “majority” means in relation to presidential elections. It is only after NEC has weighed the options and indicated a preference that we got out to seek the opinion of our other leadership echelons and grassroots members, supporters and followers,” he said.
According to one of the sources, Mutharika has offered a running mate position to Muluzi and five ministerial positions and other ambassadorial posts to UDF members should UDF and its leader enter into an electoral union with DPP.
The source added that, however, some UDF executive members are not happy with not only the proposed alliance between DPP and their party but the approach taken on deliberating on the some saying they feel the meetings scheduled for next week on the coalition are meant for their rubberstamping of the decision.
University of Malawi’s Chancellor College political analyst Ernest Thindwa said this is not surprising.
“DPP is aware that attracting the nod of 50 percent of voters will not be an easy prospect for a party that is widely perceived as an ethnic political grouping. It was relatively easier for DPP with the simple plurality (FPTP) which we have wrongly been using in previous elections,” Thindwa said.
He said with the 50 +1 requirement, which is now a definitive law, DPP need to go beyond its traditional stronghold given its localised support base and working with UDF is one option the party can consider and likely to see regional-based electoral alliances.
Thindwa said DPP-UDF electoral alliance is certainly a formidable force and by all measures will disproportionately benefit DPP.
He, however, said it will be another indication of the decline of UDF whose political relevance in Malawian politics is evidently under stress.
Recently, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera announced that he met with Muluzi and that the two plan to join forces for their parties to work together.
Muluzi, who finished fourth in the nullified presidential election and lost his Machinga North East Constituency, met the MCP leader at his residence.
DPP and UDF failed to reach a consensus on a possible political alliance ahead of May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections
Muluzi held various ministerial positions since DPP assumed power in 2014.
However, this time around, he was dropped from Cabinet, a sign that the two parties’ relationship was weak.
On February 3, the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe nullified May 21 presidential election.
In its ruling, the court made some consequential orders directed at the National Assembly.
One such order was for Parliament to enact enabling legislation to amend the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act in order to put into effect the interpretation of Section 80(2) of the Constitution which says the president shall be elected by a majority of electorate through direct universal and equal suffrage.
Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani Hara recently informed the nation that, through the Business Committee which met on February 5 2020, space has been provided for the bills and committee reports to be considered and passed/ adopted by the House before February 24 2020 when the 21-day period ordered by the Constitutional Court comes to an end.
She assured the nation that the National Assembly is ready to carry out its legislative and oversight roles as directed by the Constitutional Court.
In 1994 polls, UDF entered into a coalition with other political parties. In 1999 and 2004, the party contested without partnering any political grouping. In 2009, UDF partnered MCP while DPP contested alone in its maiden appearance on the ballot paper. In 2014 and 2019, DPP and UDF contested without partnerships.