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Infighting costs DPP in elections

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Eisenhower Mkaka

By Bernard Mhone, Audrey Kapalamula, Taonga Sabola, James Chauluka & Thomas Kachere:

Erstwhile governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s poor showing in the March 30 by-elections, which saw the party failing to defend three constituencies, has been attributed to a leadership vacuum in the party.

Out of the seven constituencies and two wards that political parties contested for in Tuesday’s election, DPP—which lost power nine months ago—failed to win a seat, emerging as the worst loser in this election.

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The only consolation the Peter Mutharika-led party got are two seats at Local Government level, emerging victorious in Liviridzi Ward in Balaka District and Chitakale Ward in Mulanje District.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the party that, through the Tonse Alliance, only went back into power nine months ago after 30 years in the wilderness, scooped four of the seven constituencies. These are Nsanje Central, Nsanje North, Lilongwe Nsinja South and Ntchisi-North constituencies.

UTM and the United Democratic Front (UDF) were poised to win one constituency each— in Karonga North West and Chikwawa East Constituency, respectively— with one parliamentary seat going to an independent candidate in Zomba Changalume Constituency.

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Chancellor College political analyst Happy Kayuni said the results are a wakeup call to the DPP, which he advised to regroup and forge ahead as a united front.

Kayuni said what is happening in the DPP is a clear case of lack of leadership, adding that the issue of leadership ought to be addressed right away.

“The party should call for a convention where people will contest for positions. What we have is a situation where no one is really leading in the DPP,” he said.

Another Chancellor College-based political analyst, Ernest Thindwa, observed that the just ended by-elections and performance of major political parties showed that leadership wrangles negatively impact parties’ performance in elections.

Thindwa hailed the MCP for fixing the leadership wrangle that rocked the party before the 2019 tripartite elections.

“We can confidently say that MCP is now a party on the rise, as it is gaining more ground in its opponents’ strongholds,” Thindwa said.

He added that opposition parties such as DPP, UDF and Alliance for Democracy should start concentrating on fixing their image and leadership wrangles for them to compete with MCP.

MCP upstaged DPP in Nsanje Central Constituency, where unofficial results indicate that the former’s candidate Kafandikhale Mandevana was leading with 8,230 votes against Francis Kasaila’s 6648s votes.

In Nsanje North Constituency, Enoch Chizuzu of MCP was leading with 9,846 votes while DPP’s Esther Mcheka Chilenje got 8,081.

In Lilongwe Msinja South Constituency, which MCP was defending, its candidate Francis Belekanyama was leading with 8, 664 followed by closest contender Jones Chadza, who got 6,596 votes.

In Ntchisi North Constituency, unofficial results indicated that MCP candidate Anord Kadzanja won the election after amassing 10,385 votes while his closest challenger, independent candidate Maurice M’bang’ombe, got 6189 votes.

Another victorious party was UTM, whose candidate Felix Katwaff Kaira was leading in Karonga North West Constituency with 9537 votes, while MCP candidate Daniel Chitonya Mwanyongo chased shadows after amassing 9,207 votes.

In Chikwawa East Constituency, unofficial results indicated that UDF candidate Roderick Khumbanyiwa was leading after amassing 7,584 votes against Rosemary Kalidozo, independent, while Ginford Maulidi of DPP chalked 5,065 votes and Foster Thipiwa of MCP got 4,612 votes.

Turning to Zomba- Changalume Constituency, unofficial results indicated that independent candidate Biziweck Million triumphed after getting 4,280 votes, seconded by UTM’s Jean Cheonga Chilemba, who got 2,651 votes.

In Chitakale Ward, Mulanje District, unofficial results indicated that DPP candidate Richard Mulingano was leading after amassing 3,565 votes while MCP and UTM candidates Aaron Chitsulo and Alexander Foster Phiri got 742 and 338 votes, respectively.

Unofficial results for Balaka Liviridzi Ward in Balaka District indicated that Lucius Elia of DPP was leading with 2,191 votes followed by Richard Koloko Alli of UTM, who got 1,618 votes.

Efforts to speak to DPP spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira and secretary-general Grezelder Jeffrey proved futile as they did not pick their phones.

However, the party’s national organising secretary Chimwemwe Chipungu said there are winners and losers in every election.

“We will analyse why we lost the [parliamentary] election. It does not matter how deep you fall; what matters is how high you bounce back,” he said.

MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said this was a “happy moment” for the party.

“You see, these are trust positions. We will not relax in serving people because we know that, once this trust goes, it will be difficult for us to regain it,” he said.

UTM spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo said the party’s victory in Karonga was an endorsement of UTM’s values.

“This is unprecedented. UTM is rated poorly, in terms of material inducements to the voters, but even those who invested heavily have lost,” Mwenifumbo said.

The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) is expected to announce the official results today. Mec Director of Media and Public Relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa made the announcement Wednesday.

“Be advised that the Malawi Electoral Commission will announce the official results for the 30th March by-elections on Thursday, 1st April 2021, from 11.30am at the main tally centre located at Umodzi Park in Lilongwe,” Mwafulirwa said in a statement.—Additional reporting by George Banda and Temwa Mhone

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