President Peter Mutharika yesterday took his re-election bid to Kasungu, widely regarded as a backyard for opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), urging people to support his governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Mutharika, who faces strong competition from his estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima on a UTM Party ticket and former leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera of MCP, held whistle-stop rallies at Kasungu Boma, Traditional Authority (T/A) Njombwa and Chamama and Wimbe trading centres.
Speaking at Kasungu Boma where he braved the midday scorching sun while clad in a DPP-branded summer hat, the President warned voters against “experimentation” in the elections.
He said: “This is an election in which you should vote for experience. Iyi si game ya nthumbidwa iyayi [Elections are serious business. It is not business for small boys].”
Mutharika, who turns 79 on July 18, introduced several DPP parliamentary and ward councillor candidates during his stopovers. He urged the electorate to grant DPP candidates victory in parliamentary and ward councillorship seats in the elections.
Kasungu is the home of the country’s founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda and has, except in 2009, traditionally voted for MCP, the party Kamuzu led during the 31 years of one-party rule from 1964 to 1994.
Kasungu has nine constituencies and in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, DPP, which contested the election from default opposition ranks after being ‘ousted’ from government following the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012, got no seat while MCP won six, an independent candidate won one and the then governing People’s Party won two.
In contrast, in 2009 elections DPP parliamentary seats in Kasungu, while MCP got zero and an independent won one.
The former law professor acknowledged DPP’s failure to retain a seat in Kasungu in 2014. Thus, he launched a spirited defence of his party’s record in office while rebuking the opposition as “a gang lacking ideas”.
He said his main opposition rivals have copied DPP ideas in their manifestos.
Mutharika mentioned the United State of America-funded project to construct 250 secondary schools that will see each of the 28 districts getting seven schools as some of the landmarks projects to justify giving his administration a new term. He also said government will rehabilitate the M1 Road from Lumbadzi through Kasungu to Chiweta in Rumphi, build new football stadiums, more community technical colleges and hospitals.
The President was flanked by First Lady Gertrude Mutharika and campaigned alongside DPP secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey, but was without his surprise pick for running mate Everton Chimulirenji, a former Ntcheu North East legislator.
The last known major and credible survey on possible voting patterns for the May 21 elections by Institute for Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) put Mutharika neck-to-neck with Chakwera while Chilima was not far off in third. The survey was conducted when Chilima’s UTM Party was barely two months old. n