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Message in the noise

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The official launch of the 2019 tripartite elections by the Malawi Electoral Commission today is the beginning of a period of lies, innuendos, half-truths, defections and acrobatics by the so-called politicians. However, in the mid of all this noise, the message must be deciphered.

The current occurrences in Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are just signals of what might lie ahead until the voting day. MCP will have to up its game if it has to graduate from the tag of “permanent members of the opposition”; 25 years is a silver jubilee. MCP needs a better narrative.

United Democratic Front (UDF) had to close 10 years from 1994-February 5 2005. UDF regime gave rise to the belief that politicians and Malawians are corrupt and this image still stands today. Beyond the euphoria of ensuring that rights were respected, others have described the UDF’s 10 years as a lost decade. People’s Party (PP) government brought us Cashgate. Take away the excitement of having Malawi’s first female president and the anger towards Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the last days of Bingu wa Mutharika’s life, it is difficult to find something positive about the PP government.

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The DPP governments have been full of contradictions. Those who want to dwell on the “human rights” angle will tell you that their record was not as good as the UDF’s in its first term. The tag of corruption, impunity and arrogance has stuck with it whether fairly or unfairly. DPP will need to deal with this perception if people have to retain it in power.

Those who want to dwell on economic fortunes and development will show you the miracle of over eight percent growth rates during the first term of DPP and the stability of the kwacha during the current DPP regime. Those who have the memory uncontaminated with selective amnesia will show you the inflation figures that have, for the first time since the last elections, gone below 10. Those who want to face the facts will show you the number of times in the last three years that interest rates have been reduced. Those who do not fear to tell the truth will also point out to you the fact that the kwacha has been stable in the last two years. It is also important to remind those that have honesty written on their foreheads that fuel prices have been stable for the last 12 months. It was also during the first term of the DPP government that Malawi added a hefty boost to juice up through expansion of its desperately needed infrastructure.

There are those who will want to remind us of the good and bad of the 30 years of MCP rule in Malawi. There is nothing wrong in learning from that history. However, the impact of that history might not be as great as the politicians want us to believe. The reasons are simple; this will be the fifth elections after 1994. Those who were born in 1995 will now be 25 years old. This year will also introduce to the voting register a whole group of young citizens who were born after the year 2000. This surely means that a significant number of the voting population will be the youth. These have no recollection of what the Malawi Young Pioneers, Youth League and the party stalwarts were capable of doing. To some, these are just stories to feed their imagination. The party that will harness the votes of this group will surely be half way into power by the time Malawians vote in 2019.

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A cocktail of handouts, empty promises, fake smiles and lies will test the mettle of voters until May 2019. Politicians are masters at doing whatever it takes to get their hands on power. A great many of these politicians are in this game simply because it is a lucrative career choice. The onus of separating the one from the other rests with the voters.

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