- Electoral alliances limited to presidential candidates
While some political parties have forged electoral alliances to support one presidential candidate, they are set to slug it out against each other in Parliamentary and Local Government Elections, we have found out.
Officials of the parties we talked to in separate interviews observed that the parties have not signed any contracts binding them to field joint candidates in parliamentary and local government elections.
Currently, there are three known electoral alliances—the UTM, Alliance for Democracy (Aford) and Tikonze People’s Movement (TPM) who will support the UTM candidate; the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Khumbo Kachali’s Freedom Party (FP) will support the MCP candidate.
Additionally, the United Democratic Front (UDF) is in a partnership with Aford parliamentarian for Frank Mwenifumbo, who is a running mate to the party’s torch bearer, Atupele Muluzi.
UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati said in an interview on Tuesday while her party was in a working relationship with Aford and TPM, the parties had not signed a contract or memorandum of understanding (MoU) to guide them on how the alliance will operate.
But Kaliati’s assertion contradicted what other members of the alliance, Enoch Chihana and George Nnensa of Aford and TPM, respectively, told Weekend Nation in separate interviews this week.
Said Chihana: “[It’s] free for all. The reason is we don’t want to violate anybody’s democratic right to contest or vote for a candidate of their choice whether from Aford, UTM or TPM based on individual characters.
“Again, when we were going into the electoral alliance it was also too late to make people withdraw their candidature and support another.”
He said should Chilima win the elections, the parties in the electoral alliance will share the responsibility of running government although this is not expressly stated in the contract.
Nnensa confirmed Chihana’s version that they had agreed that each party would have their own candidate.
“By the time we were finalising the agreement each party had already identified its candidates to contest against each other. However, where the candidates individually agree to withdraw and support another, depending on their challenger’s strength, it is up to them,” he explained.
A top UTM official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Aford and TPM merely endorsed UTM president Saulos Chilima as presidential candidate, which means that each party would go it alone on other positions.
On his part, MCP spokesperson Reverend Maurice Munthali said Kachali was “essentially supporting the candidature of Dr Lazarus Chakwera as president” and that there is no political alliance between MCP and FP.
“Issues relating to fielding of aspirants are still under discussion. But what is clear is that we are in a working relationship. This is coming at a time when people already registered and aspirants presented their papers, but that does not necessarily mean they can be stopped from contesting,” he said.
But Kachali, a former State vice-president, a sitting MP who is not getting a salary as a legislator had a contrary statement on their working relationship.
“We will support one another. Where we have strong candidates, MCP will support us; where they have strong candidates, we will support them. Where we know our candidates are at par, then they will battle against each other.
“It’s a mutual understanding of supporting each other but basically the bigger picture is that we have to support them on the presidency, there we don’t compromise,” he said.
MCP chairperson for Mzimba South West and three other constituencies, Owen Blackwell Gondwe, said his party is not fielding a candidate in Mzimba South West Constituency.
“For us we will not field candidates in every constituency or ward because we have targets. We don’t mind even if we field three candidates as long as we are certain those three will deliver,” he said.
On what there is in the electoral alliance for FP, Kachali said they cannot begin ‘sharing game before killing it’.
“Let’s wait until we cross the bridge,” he said.
DPP secretary general Greselder Jeffrey and Depeco leader Chris Daza said their arrangement has no restrictions on fielding of candidates and as such the two parties aspiring parliamentarians and councillors will have to battle it out.
UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo said Muluzi picked Mwenifumbo in his personal capacity.
“Therefore, there is nothing to stop us from fielding a candidate in his constituency as there were no preconditions to his appointment,” he said.
University of Malawi political scientist Joseph Chunga observed that the parties could not avoid competing against each other because their deals were made at the eleventh hour.
“The party leaders knew it would be difficult to stop some candidates from standing because they had already invested and would end up resorting to contesting as independents which would not be in their best interests,” he said.
Chunga said any kind of configuration resulting from the five parties would be a significant factor in shaping the electoral outcomes but outside these “I really don’t see how they would help to shape a national configuration of power.”
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on Thursday announced that it had approved nine presidential candidates—three of whom are in the Cabinet—from a field of 10 which the 6.8 million registered voters will choose from on May 21.