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Of opinion polls, reality

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With George Kasakula:

Opinion polls, by their nature, result in some unnecessary jubilations and fears as if a particular individual or political party has already been handed the keys to power.

Well, the polls are an indicator of how various political entities surveyed are likely to perform at a particular point and what might happen in the future if the status quo remains.

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But, at the end, what matters is what happens during the actual day of polling.

This week, the Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) released results of a survey it had conducted on Malawians’ perceptions of various political parties.

The survey found that if elections were held at the time it was conducted, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would carry the day with opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and newly formed UTM coming behind.

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While the Ipor study outcomes are offering some food for thought for political parties, it must not drive them away from their roles in the development of the country.

What these political parties do between now and the time we have our next elections will be crucial in determining who really carries the day.

With such results, it is obvious that the scramble for power is going to be intense as those that have been declared failures, or lagging behind, will be jostling for better positions.

Those that have been found in good positions will be striving to maintain the positions and they will do everything possible to ensure that happens, perhaps, without even caring much about everything else.

But what Malawians want is for different duty-bearers to do their job. That is both in the opposition and the government.

It would be foolhardy for anyone to decide that the die is already cast and that there is nothing that will change things come next year when Malawians go to the polls to elect their leaders.

The opposition must continue to provide checks and balances to ensure the abuse of public resources and the thieving in public institutions ebbs.

I know that the temptation to ‘engage an extra gear’ in wooing potential voters to their side is strong in opposition political parties such that they may abandon their oversight roles.

They must not. At stake are lives of millions of Malawians who continue to get unsatisfactory services from public entities because of case of thieving that are not diminishing.

These people will not really benefit from the results of the opinion polls in the meantime until they actually cast their vote at the polls next year.

So they do not expect that anything will change in the way duty-bearers offer their services. If anything, they want things to improve.

To DPP, the party that is governing this country, it would be impulsive to take the opinion poll as some verdict that shows that all is well. All is not well.

Corruption remains rampant and public service delivery is poor. There are many things that matter to Malawians that are not being done right and need to be rectified.

Thus, what has been known about the party all along will not immediately vanish in the aftermath of the survey which assessed a very negligible population of potential voters.

On the other hand, it is ironic that the majority of the same people who were surveyed settled on the point that the current DPP administration is corrupt but went ahead to opt for it in terms of who should govern Malawi.

The survey results show that DPP is likely to win the 2019 elections with a stronger base in the Southern Region, followed by MCP in the Central Region.

This clearly tells us that Malawians have not embraced politics of ideas. Otherwise, why do we still have political parties having particular regions as their bases if ideas matter at all to voters?

Malawians would rather vote for their region-mates irrespective of how corrupt they are. Those found to be trustworthy are still thrust into the periphery simply because they do not come from the same region as some voters.

Nevertheless, I hope that, with time, most Malawians will appreciate the need to go for leaders who have their welfare at heart regardless of where they come from.

As such, both opposition political parties and DPP must be under no illusion that the survey results are an end in themselves. We have an election next year where millions will be deciding who should be their leaders.

That is where the real opinion will come out.

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