One of the results of the recent survey into voter preferences ahead of the 2019 elections by the Institute for Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) is that political parties have finally start contemplating electoral alliances.
Looking at the survey—where the incumbent President Peter Mutharika is “statistically tied” with nemesis and Leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera at 27 percent and 24 percent respectively, plus new kid on the block, Vice-President Saulos Chilima breathing down their necks at 16 percent—it was both inevitable—and common sense—that electoral alliances should come to fore.
The survey all but dashed the chances of other pretenders, among them, former president Joyce Banda and one-time sensation Atupele Muluzi.
No party, though, among the top three, has received an overwhelming backing to feel confident enough that it can go all the way in 2019, alone.
It’s still a very uncertain election—perhaps, the most uncertain election this country has ever known.
So, who would say no to alliances in such an environment?
Well, politicians in both parties, apparently. Those poised to lose out on running mate berths are seated uncomfortable with this proposition.
Some have found partners in blind loyalists and surrogates who are consumed by narrow interests to look beyond the picture.
So, we know it’s going to be tough getting some parties work together, or even seated at the table to talk. It’s a headache for party strategists seeking the best electoral outcome for their presidential candidate.
Think of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). With President Mutharika’s approval ratings dwindling so low (he won the last elections by 34 elections), the DPP is far from guaranteed any victory.
If the major opposition parties unite, they can easily dislodge Mutharika from power.
So, the business of alliances must interest APM, somehow. Already Atupele Muluzi is a partner in government and hence a natural choice for running mate if DPP decides to partner UDF.
But who doesn’t know the acrimonious history between DPP and UDF. Who doesn’t know the strong tribal currents that run in DPP?
That is compounded by the fact that Mutharika will be in his 80s when the elections are held. Many in DPP are wondering; What would happen if, God forbid, Tate is unable to continue for one reason or another midway his new tenure. Atupele will be President. UDF, not DPP, will be the ruling party.
Should DPP risk being dismantled by UDF in the near future or risk lose an immediate election by going sole?
Then think about MCP. The moment the news broke that MCP and UTM were contemplating forming an alliance, some of the party’s officials started pushing back.
A figure no less than the party’s director of youth and lawmaker for Dowa East Richard Chimwendo, went ballistic on social media castigating both UTM and the suggested MCP/UTM alliance: “Not with DPP Team B. They are all one. # MCP not desperate,“ wrote Chimwendo in one Facebok post which was followed by several ones.
MCP supporters took cue. UTM supporters reiterated. DPP breathed a recipe.
And, of course, after losing elections in 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014, MCP ought to be desperate, in a good sense, to win the elections. Using the same tactics and hoping for a different result isn’t much of common sense.
Many MCP backers would point to presence of newly-welcomed veterans from other parties as a point that the party is learning lessons from its past failures.
But the question is, which lessons? Certainly, the party needed Sidik Mia and company, but the most important political lesson, always is about pragmatism, which essentially means balancing between what is necessary and what is right, to succeed.
Yet, any clear move by Chakwera today signalling he is flirting with Chilima, Joyce Banda or anyone—anyone who can be considered running mate—would send Mia scampering for the exit.
Chakwera is in as much a predicament as APM.
Those boxing Chakwera to confines of the party when choosing running mate, say they don’t want MCP to be polluted by alliance partners who are corrupted by involvement in the current corrupt DPP administration.
Laughable isn’t it? It is, because the new MCP has welcomed into ranks, already, recycled politicians whose records are tainted by corruption of every corrupt regime we have had since multiparty democracy came to this country. Did I mention Mia as one of them?