Litmus test For DPP, MCP
About 160,000 voters are expected to cast their votes today in three constituencies and three wards, in the much- anticipated by-elections.
The by-elections are widely thought to be an indicator of how different political parties—especially the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party—are going to perform in the 2019 tripartite elections.
People in Lilongwe Msozi North, Lilongwe City South East and Nsanje Lalanje constituencies will be electing their Members of Parliament (MPs) while those in Mtsiliza, Mayani North and Ndirande Makata wards will be electing their councillors.
Chancellor College Political Analyst Mustapha Hussein said the by elections, especially the Nsanje Lalanje elections, are a litmus test for the DPP.
“A loss for the DPP will not be a good sign for them because it may mean the MCP is getting a foothold in the Southern Region which has been a stronghold for the ruling party,” he said.
Ernest Thindwa, another political analyst based at Chancellor College, said it would be a big deal if DPP lost in Nsanje Lalanje as it would boost the MCP morale and dampen theirs.
“If DPP loses in the Central Region, it will not be as big a deal as losing in Nsanje Lalanje. A loss in Nsanje would affect their [DPP] morale and dampen their spirits but it will not necessarily mean much for 2019,” Thindwa said.
The subplot of the elections will be to test the influence of MCP new recruit Sidik Mia who some believe was roped in to galvanise the party in the Southern Region, especially the Shire Valley.
Recently, the ruling DPP, and by extension President Mutharika, seem to be losing popularity with a recent Africa Confidential report saying that the chances of DPP and President Mutharika appear slim in 2019
Africa Confidential, a London-based publication, cited the high-level corruption, infighting within the rank and file of the party and nepotism as some of the key issues chipping away Mutharika’s popularity.
But Minister of Information and government spokeperson Nicholas Dausi dismissed the report.
“The report does not give a fair representation of what’s on the ground, our party under the able leadership of His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika is very strong because of the track record that the DPP has in this country,” Dausi said.
On the by elections, Dausi sounded confident: “We have done our job and we know that we are going to carry the day.”
The election mood
In Nsanje, police have tightened security ahead of the polls and have mounted adhoc roadblocks along the road to the district.
Expectations are high in Lilongwe City South East Constituency where four candidates, Ulemu Msungama of MCP, Reuben Ngwenya of DPP and two independent candidates, Ellen Kadango and Christopher Manja are contesting.
“I am definitely going to vote. We need an MP in this constituency. I believe my vote will have an impact on the outcome of the elections,” Amos Mwendera of Chilinde said.
Although some people we interviewed said they could have voted if they registered, Mphatso Mchere Banda said he lost interest in voting.
“I have observed that these people [politicians] are the same. After voting for them, they do nothing. They ask for our votes but our relationship with them ends the day the results are known. It is better not to vote,” Mchere Banda said.
Returning Officer for Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency, Joyce Kondowe, said officials at the constituency tally centre are ready for the task.
“All the centres have received materials for voting. In the centres, all monitors have checked the materials being delivered,” she said.
Elizabeth Kalimbuka, a Presiding Officer at Kaliyeka Primary School in Lilongwe City South East Constituency also said all was set.
In Lilongwe Msozi North, MCP candidate Sosten Gwengwe is competing against Bruno Daka of the DPP.
In Nsanje, Lalanje, DPP’s Gladys Ganda and MCP’s Lawrence Sitolo as well as independent candidate Winnie Wakudyanaye of DPP, will tussle for the constituency’s seat.
Frank Zikawola of MCP, Brighton Golombe Edward of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Benedicto Jumbe of DPP are competing in Mtsiliza Ward.
In Mayani North Ward, Benson Lameck of the MCP is contesting against DPP’s Nicholas Josiya and UDF’s Everista Kusina while in Ndirande Makata, there are four contestants: Ishmael Chilambo (UDF), Thom Lita (DPP), Thom Liwotcha (MCP) and Mathews Shaba (PP).
Out of the 160,000 registered to vote, 121,507 are from the Central Region districts of Lilongwe and Dedza while the rest are for Nsanje and Blantyre districts in the Southern Region.
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