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What DPP, UDF alliance means

REUNION—Mutharika (right) and Muluzi shake hands after announcing the alliance

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) Tuesday entered into an alliance, whose impact an analyst says depends on how Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM will approach the May 19 2020 fresh presidential election.

DPP leader President Peter Mutharika said the two entities are yet to agree on a political coalition ahead of the fresh presidential election.

In his three-minute speech at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, Mutharika told jubilant DPP and UDF supporters that he was happy to welcome back UDF supporters, saying the two parties belong to one family even though they are taking different paths.

“We hold similar values. We are both democratic, peaceful and development oriented parties. We share similar aspirations to improve the living standards of all Malawians in the country.

“We will proceed to work as an alliance as we consider the possibility of a coalition. The alliance is founded on common values and our goal is to unite and develop this country,” Mutharika said.

On his part, Muluzi said the alliance symbolises the true willingness by DPP to develop the country with UDF.

He said the alliance will help in rebuilding trust as the two entities try to grow the economy and lift Malawians out of poverty.

The two leaders, however, failed to clearly indicate what the alliance will be doing going forward with only less than 130 days to the next election.

Chancellor College political analyst, Ernest Thindwa, said the success of the UDF/DPP partnership will depend on whether MCP and UTM go as distinct parties with own presidential candidates or field one candidate.

“I do not anticipate any party or coalition winning outright if DPP, MCP and UTM each field a candidate. Should MCP and UTM field one candidate, the deciding factor will be how the North votes. Given DPP’s sour relations with the North, MCP/ UTM coalition can be deemed to have an edge,” Thindwa said.

“Should the MCP/UTM coalition fail, a re-run is a high probability and I would put my card on MCP and DPP contesting in the second round on the simple reason that UTM support is likely to be limited to urban areas which constitute no more than 17 percent of the voting population. UTM will struggle to claim significant votes in the Central and Southern regions, which are traditionally strongholds for MCP and DPP respectively. The North, where UTM is more popular than any other party, does not have significant numbers to propel TUM to a rerun,” Thindwa added.

UDF spokesperson Ken Ndanga and DPP’s Nicholas Dausi declined to comment much on the details of the alliance.

“The technicalities of the coalition are still under discussion, so I can’t comment on that, but people should know that the working relationship which we had from 2014 fell off the time we went to pols in 2019. So, this being a new political term, the parties have agreed for an electoral alliance,” Ndanga said.

Asked if he is part of the alliance, Muluzi’s running-mate in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, Frank Mwenifumbo of Alliance for Democracy (Aford) said his constituents and the Northern Region in general are opposed it.

Mwenifumbo, who was once a cabinet Minister in the DPP-led government during the reign of late Bingu wa Mutharika, said his relationship with UDF was at the electoral level and that it ended at the polls.

“In my political experience, I have come to know that any political decision one makes, especially crucial ones, must be commensurate with public opinion. I consulted interest groups, opinion leaders up North, including church and society, they all advised me to stay away,” he said.

Mwenifumbo said DPP and its leadership has in recent times made careless pronouncements about the Northern Region, hence, it would be a sign of disloyalty to his people if he associated with such a party.

He said he remains a member of Aford and that he has been in talks with its leader Enoch Chihana who is based in South Africa.

“I am a loyal member of Aford, and as you know, my party has a working relationship with UTM. I have been talking with my president and what has stood out in our conversation is that we should forge ahead,” he said.

UDF and DPP also entered into an alliance in 2014 up to 2019 before the union disintegrated unceremoniously in the build-up to the May 21 2019 elections.

Many analysts had accused Muluzi of selling out his once mighty UDF for personal benefits, as he was the only beneficiary of the alliance having been appointed as a Cabinet minister.

However, the alliance worked magic for the DPP as it made significant inroads to the Eastern Region, considered UDF stronghold, where it amassed more votes and got a significant number of lawmakers in the 2019 elections.

During the May 21 2019 presidential election which the Constitutional Court nullified on February 3 2020, Mutharika got 1,940,709 votes or 38 percent with MCP president Lazarus Chakwera second with 1,781,740 or 35 percent, UTM leader Saulos Chilima got 1,018, 369 or 20.2 percent while Muluzi got 235,164 votes or 5 percent of the total votes cast.

All things being equal, based on the May 2019 elections results, a DPP and UDF coalition could get a combined 43 percent of the votes which is still 7 percent shy of the required 50 percent-plus-one majority.

UDF and the DPP share history, since the latter was born from the former in February 2005, after Bingu fell out with the party’s politburo and chairperson Bakili Muluzi, who had handpicked him to be UDF presidential candidate in 2004 polls.

In 2015, the two parties formed a parliamentary working relationship which various commentators opined only benefited the young Muluzi who served as a Cabinet minister in various portfolios.

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