The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), smarting from criticism that its recent convention was heavily skewed in favour of Peter Mutharika, has received a boost after a Nation on Sunday poll showed that people generally view the indaba as credible.
The party, which held the convention in Malawi’s commercial hub of Blantyre from April 17-19, came in for stinging criticism from aspirant Henry Chimunthu Banda and some analysts who argued that Mutharika had an advantage over his rival ahead of the elections.
Mutharika won the party’s ticket for the 2014 presidential elections after scooping 1 266 votes, against 73 for Chimuthu Banda.
In the survey, Nation on Sunday asked respondents whether they believe the elections were free and fair.
Out of 1 268 people who participated in the opinion poll, 948, representing 75 percent of the sample, gave the party the kudos for holding a credible convention.
The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews in 16 districts and via our short message service (SMS).
The survey polled 344 respondents through the SMS line whereas 924 respondents participated through face-to-face interviews.
For some of the respondents who believe the elections were credible, the fact that the Electoral Commission (EC) handled the process enhanced the believability of the polls.
On the other hand, others argued that prior to and during the convention, the party advanced Mutharika’s agenda at the expense of Chimunthu Banda.
The survey’s outcome excited DPP spokesperson and convention chairperson Nicholas Dausi who said it demonstrates people’s faith in the manner the party conducted the indaba.
“It shows that we acted within the confines of the law and tenets of intra-party democratic principles. The people were watching us and they are the better judges.
“We thank the people for acknowledging our efforts. We are cognisant of our faults and we will continue to build on our faults to become a better party,” said Dausi.
But human rights activist Billy Mayaya said while the elections were free, their fairness was questionable.
“The process appeared to be free, but was not necessarily fair. It was obvious that the party needed to legitimise and rubberstamp Peter Mutharika’s candidacy which had been a foregone conclusion in the public domain.
“Chimunthu Banda’s late entrance into the process also weakened his position as a credible contender. The party needs to seriously deconstruct the perception that it is a party for the Lhomwe belt by courting people from all corners of the country.
“Furthermore, the stigma attached to the party of promoting wanton violence needs to be seriously addressed as a way of rebranding the party’s image. Again, the party needs to articulate its campaign message instead of simply reacting to the mudslinging and the usual campaign rhetoric,” said Mayaya.
The convention was the first the party, formed in 2005, held to elect members of its National Governing Council (NGC).