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UTM, PP agree on alliance

By Wanangwa Chafulumira:

After months of speculations and negotiations People’s Party (PP) and six other parties under the banner of Tikonze Progressive Movement have partnered with newly registered UTM in an electoral alliance ahead of May 21 Tripartite Elections.

The coalition news comes two days before Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) starts receiving nominations from presidential candidates and their running mates for the polls.

Mec Wednesday issued a public notice which indicates that Malawi Congress Party presidential nominee Lazarus Chakwera Monday will lead other 22 hopefuls who collected the nomination papers from the commission in presenting the papers.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader President Peter Mutharika, UDF’s Atupele Muluzi, UTM’s Saulos Chilima and PP’s Joyce Banda are scheduled for Friday, Thursday, Wednesday and Tuesday respectively.

According to a press statement released yesterday and signed by UTM president Saulos Chilima and his counterparts PP’s Joyce Band, Aford’s Enock Chihana and Tikonze’s interim vice president Mark Katsonga Phiri the parties met in Lilongwe yesterday where they agreed to enter into a coalition ahead of the forthcoming elections.

“The parties have agreed to support one presidential candidate who shall be announced on Monday, February 4 2019 at Bingu International Convention Centre at 9:30 am,” reads the statement in part.

But according to inside sources, among other agreements, UTM is going to provide a presidential candidate while PP has the coalition’s running mate position to fill in.

UTM spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga and PP spokesperson Ackson Kalaile Banda declined to give more details on the agreement saying there will be an official communication on the same.

Malawi News reported last week that political groupings are grappling with the choice of running mates and potential political alliances including the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The reports indicated that Mutharika had settled for Muluzi as his running mate, a development which has caused fractions in DPP.

Several sources that we spoke to but opted for anonymity because they are afraid of reprisals corroborated that cracks have emerged in DPP following Mutharika’s decision.

A senior Cabinet minister who spoke on anonymity confirmed reports that Mutharika had picked young Muluzi saying there is huge resistance in the party as others are arguing the decision poses risks to DPP.

“It is very true that there are fractions in the party. This is the last term for the President and we cannot afford to have a running mate from another party. DPP has a legacy and it has to be maintained, what is going to happen is political suicide,” said the source.

The minister said those advocating Atupele to be running mate are scare-mongering by saying DPP needs UDF to win the presidential race and remain in government.

“But that is not true. We are mortgaging the party to UDF which is dangerous to the future of the party. Some of us are not party to it,” said the minister.

The sentiments were corroborated by other sources in the party.

But DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi Friday said he cannot comment on both the newly formed alliance of UTM and PP and rumours on Mutharika and Muluzi partnership.

Chakwera is the only presidential candidate who came out in the open to declare Sidik Mia as his running mate.

Yet there were also reports that the party wanted to enter into a coalition with People’s Party (PP) but the negotiations hit a snag.

An MCP senior member who did not want to be quoted on record confirmed the reports last week saying the talks between the two parties did not yield anything.

But MCP spokesperson Reverend Maurice Munthali said Friday the party has not been in official talks with any political party although was quick to say it is open to coalitions.

“I would want to believe that political alliances can be discussed and agreed upon any time. Presentation of nomination papers is a different issue altogether, so there is still time. What matters is when parties come together with common ideologies when people are fighting a common enemy they have to agree on one thing,” he said.

University of Malawi’s Chancellor College-based lecturer Mustapha Hussein commended the UTM-PP coalition.

“It is a good development because the move means we have fewer presidential candidates, what it means is that they will choose one aspirant who will represent them. This reduces the issue of split votes and increases competition,” he said.

In 1994 polls, UDF entered into a coalition with other political parties. In 1999 and 2004, the party contested without partnering any political grouping. In 2009, UDF partnered MCP while DPP contested alone in its maiden appearance on the ballot paper. In 2014, both DPP and UDF contested without partnership.

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