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Parties’ succession plan under scrutiny

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By Serah Makondetsa:

There were mixed emotions and reactions last month among political party followers when their respective party leaders unveiled their running mates ahead of May 21 Tripartite Elections.

For a long time and traditionally since multiparty advent, presidential candidates, except Malawi Congress Party’s Lazarus Chakwera who announced last year he would be paired with Mohammed Sidik Mia in the May polls, kept a tight lid on who would appear on the ballot paper with them.

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However, February 4-8, when the presidential hopefuls were

presenting their nomination papers to Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), was the moment of truth when presidential hopefuls revealed their running mates.

While mixed reactions towards the exercise were expected, political analysts have described the selection process of a running mate as lack of succession plans in the political parties.

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University of Malawi’s Chancellor College-based and governance analysts Mustapha Hussein and Ernest Thindwa and University of Livingstonia political scientist George Phiri said most of the party leaders choose a running mate simply to amass votes forgetting a running mate is a potential vice-president of the country.

Phiri said party leaders fail to look beyond the elections arguing a better succession plan for the whole country would be ideal and not just the party.

“Currently, we are not very careful as to who this person is to the nation and how this person was nominated because the issue is not just the one to go to the elections with.

“The focus should not be the election it should be on the nation because this person we are talking about as a running mate is a person who will be a leader of the nation in the event that the president dies or becomes incapacitated,” he said.

Hussein said there is lack of democracy in parties arguing certain decisions such as the choice of a running mate are not consultative.

“Parties need to have a succession plan. Currently, it seems they do not have such plans, it is left to the presidential hopeful to choose his or her sunning mate and we have seen that, apart from MCP, most of the parties have done it at the last hour.

“And this creates anxiety and frustrations and leaves the voters with less time to appreciate the running mate. In short, it is important that the internal democracy should be enhanced in such a manner that the members of the party should be given a voice on who a running mate should be,” he said.

Thindwa said most leaders look at ethnicity and region when selecting a running mate but not on ideologies.

“Leaders do not choose a running mate based on the same ideologies that they may have as a combination, the trend we have noticed is a matter of amassing votes,” he said.

Speaking on the choice of President Pater Mutharika of Everton Chimulirenji as his running mate, Democratic Progressive Party spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said the party welcomed the idea and they approved the decision by President Peter Mutharika.

“Without any problems with hope and total approval, with all support and everyone was happy that the choice was the right one for the party,” Dausi said.

UTM spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said the party expects to benefit from Saulos Chilima’s choice of Michael Usi as running mate.

“UTM embraced the choice of Dr Usi as a running mate. He is someone from the private sector with a lot of experience on governance among others, which we think the party will benefit a lot from. Many Malawians know how passionate Dr Usi is about his country. This country needs people who are passionate about their country. Usi is one such character. So, as a party, we have embraced the choice of Usi,” he said.

People’s Party (PP) spokesperson Ackson Kalaile said the party members expected a choice of a running mate who is capable of running affairs of the country with PP’s torch bearer Joyce Banda.

“As PP, we were expecting a leader that has capable credentials that can make someone to lead this country. Dr Jerry Jana is a very capable person, he is very educated and he has served in various positions in the country and outside the country and, as such, everyone was happy and satisfied with the choice,” he said.

United Democratic Front (UDF) publicity secretary Ken Ndanga said the party was very happy with the choice of the party’s candidate Atupele Muluzi.

“The party is very happy with the choice of Honourable Frank Mwenifumbo as running mate. That is why when the president of the UDF unveiled him at the Comesa Hall, there was rapture and deafening sounds of approval from the members who gathered at the Comesa Hall,” he said.

On February 5, former president Banda unveiled former Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation Chief Executive Officer Jerry Jana as running mate a day after she called off the electoral alliance her party had entered the previous Friday.

Chilima stirred debate among many when he settled for Michael Usi as his running mate while Muluzi, who is also Minister of Health, settled for Karonga Central Member of Parliament (MP) Frank Mwenefumbo.

And on February 8, among the last candidates to present their nomination papers to Mec, was Mutharika who surprised his own party members when he chose a less popular, less visible Ntcheu North East MP and Cabinet minister Everton Chimulilenji as his running mate.

Since the multiparty dispensation, the country has witnessed fallouts between sitting presidents and their vices in Bakili Muluzi and Justin Malwezi (1994- 2004), Bingu wa Mutharika and Cassim Chilumpha (2004-2009), Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda (2004-2012), Joyce Banda and Khumbo Kachali (2012-2014) and, 2014 to present, Peter Mutharika and Chilima.

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