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Safety in numbers

They are drinking from the same chalice once again and this time, it appears to be a forced conclave that drafted the deal.

The prospect of the 50 percent-plus-one system hitting political parties—even those that habitually command huge followings—has shoved Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to pursue a marriage of convenience with erstwhile governing party, United Democratic Front (UDF), whose bearing on the political scene has terribly degenerated in recent years.

In fact, the relapse started with that unprecedented decision by Bingu wa Mutharika to dump the party that had sponsored his ascension to the coveted plot in 2004.

UDF has ever since struggled to find its feet even after going into alliances with other parties.

Of course, along the way, its leaders have enjoyed some propinquity to ruling powers where they have been brought in to partake of the battered national cake.

And yesterday, a formal agreement was publicly announced about UDF and DPP going together in the forthcoming presidential election.

The ceremony—held within the high walls of Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, President Peter Mutharika’s home—had all hues that one party was coming in as a lesser player with fewer dices to slide onto the centre.

B u t , perhaps, that may not matter much especially since UDF might really have nothing to lose.

It was dramatic to see Mutharika don that yellow cap while UDF’s Atupele Muluzi took the blue one. But there was little fanfare in that glorious room where both parties’ loyalists seemed to force smiles and ululations out through their hard throats.

Nevertheless, the speculation that raged for days, if not weeks, finally got confirmed and for the two parties, at least there is somewhere to start from or to end as far as alliances are concerned.

They are going to the polls together; they have made this clear. They charged that they are the same brood—cut from the same coat.

Alliances are inevitable if the directive by the Constitutional Court, that Malawi should use the 50 percent-plus-one system, stands.

The fragmented political landscape—where political parties rarely command support across the country—means that only such unions can bring the majority of votes.

If three major political parties choose to go solo, it is very likely that none of them will get more than 50 percent of total valid votes cast. And both UDF and DPP are aware of this; that is why they have decided to go together.

In fact, in event of a run-off, other parties will be forced to forge partnerships with the top two whose leaders will have to face off within 30 days of the initial election—according to the amended Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act Amended Bill.

Whether the union between DPP and UDF has the potential of getting the required numbers is an issue for another day.

What perhaps could be more interesting is whether more formal alliances should be expected in the near future and what these alliances will eventually mean.

For UDF and DPP, there is something in their mutual chalice. They can drink from it once again like they have done before.

In fact, the alliance is strategic. While other parties could be grumbling all the while over trivialities, DPP and UDF have the time to work on what can unite them.

In fact, they could even be exploring more alliances. They have started the ball rolling, after all.

Once again, if the judgement of the Constitutional Court stands, we will be voting again soon. A serious political party will not take chances. There is safety in numbers.

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