Analysts have questioned the wisdom behind Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Peter Mutharika’s decision to leave for the United States of America (USA) with only three months to the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.
The analysts argue that his absence casts a shadow of doubt on his seriousness to lead the country as a president.
Mutharika left last month for the US and his personal assistant, Ben Phiri, said he went there to carry on his assignments as the party’s president.
The DPP president is a US green card holder and any holder is not required to stay outside that country for over a year, failing which the card can be revoked.
Political and administrative studies lecturer at Chancellor College, Associate Professor Happy Kayuni said Mutharika should have been in the country at this time.
“There is no problem with his going to America, but the timing is the problem. He should have been in the country to provide symbolic and ceremonial leadership to the party. A leader of the party represents its image and whatever the leader does has effects on the party,” said Kayuni.
He observed that DPP, without its leader, is static. Kayuni also noted that as elections are drawing closer, Mutharika, being a party candidate, is under the spotlight.
“So, his absence will definitely question his seriousness to be a leader of the country. This is a sensitive time where every move of candidates is analysed critically,” he said.
Another political scientist Dr Blessings Chinsinga said Mutharika was supposed to be providing strategic direction to the party until elections.
“Maybe because he is not charismatic as he says nothing inspirational. He is riding on the DPP’s success stories on food and security. But as a leader, his presence cannot be underestimated,” said Chinsinga.
Former legal adviser to former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, Allan Ntata also questioned Peter’s absence. Ntata was quoted by online newspapers as saying Peter was not demonstrating a strategy to win the forthcoming elections by going abroad instead of being around to respond to the dynamics of political developments.
“Political leadership is about strategy. Professor Peter Mutharika is out of the country right now. What is he doing outside Malawi at a time when he should be in Malawi responding to the dynamics of political developments?” wondered Ntata.
DPP publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi said much as he does not know when Mutharika will come back to Malawi, the party is in touch with him.
“In a democracy, people are good at creating stories. Peter is in America doing something that we know. We talk to him but I need to check when he is coming back,” said Dausi.
However, Phiri said there is no political activity that Mutharika would be doing in Malawi now.
Phiri said the party calendar shows that from November to January is time for primaries and any meeting would be interpreted to mean that he is supporting a particular candidate.
“His journey has nothing to do with a green card because he is carrying out functions as party president. He is coming back this week,” said Phiri.
This is not the first time that Mutharika has stayed in the US for an extended period. During his brother’s rule, he missed a number of engagements, including the hosting of Commonwealth secretary Kamalesh Sharma and the African Union (AU) summit.