Differences have emerged in the governing DPP and the main opposition MCP over the primary elections ahead of next year’s Tripartite Elections.
In the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) some senior party officials have issued a declaration blocking aspirants in certain constituencies from contesting in the primary elections, to protect incumbent legislators.
On the other hand, the intra-party fight in MCP has developed into cracks with some losers in the ongoing primaries declaring to form parallel structures and compete in the May 21 2018 polls.
This is against the party’s principle that those who lost in the primaries should exercise restraint and support winners in the spirit of promoting unity, and not stand as independents.
Over the past weeks, senior DPP officials, particularly in the Southern Region, have been holding rallies advising their supporters to endorse serving members of Parliament (MPs) at the expense of the new aspirants.
Some of these constituencies are Chiradzulu East and Chiradzulu South where party officials have publicly blocked new aspirants, saying primaries will not take place as “the incumbents are strong candidates”.
Those shielding serving aspiring candidates include some leaders in constituency, district and regional committees and some members of the national governing council (NGC).
For instance, in Chiradzulu South, whose sitting MP is Joseph Mwanamvekha, district governors and constituency officials have blocked the sole challenger Oliver Nakoma by rejecting his nomination letters, saying the party would not hold primaries in the constituency.
But when contacted, while confirming his interest to contest against Mwanamvekha, Nakoma declined further comment, referring Weekend Nation to party officials.
Last Saturday, DPP officials from Chiradzulu East constituency, district and regional committees, led by director of women for the South Bertha Nachuma, took turns at a rally held at Mwanje Primary School, which a Weekend Nation crew attended, attacking Joe Nomale, a sole challenger of the incumbent legislator, Henry Mussa.
Declared Nachuma: “The MP for this area is Honourable Henry Mussa. He is also the one to represent the DPP during Parliamentary elections in 2019, and nobody else.”
In Nkhotakota, district governor Odala Phiri prevented an aspiring candidate for Nkhotakota North, Charles Kameja, from submitting his letters to contest.
“I was shocked when the district governor rejected my nomination letter. Where is democracy in the party? The party should have made the primary elections free and fair by giving opportunity to every candidate,” said Kameja.
But, in a separate interview, Phiri defended his action, saying Kameja submitted his letter late, but could not give further details when pressed.
But DPP director of elections Ben Phiri said the party’s position is that primaries will be held in all the 193 constituencies without looking at an individual and will not protect any incumbent MP.
“That is mere politics. I cannot speak on behalf of some officials blocking others, but the party’s policy is that every constituency will hold primaries. I know certain constituencies like the one in question have two contestants, so we can’t do without primaries,” explained Phiri.
DPP started its primary elections on October 8 with the Northern Region and so far, according to Phiri, they have covered 32 of the 193 constituencies.
The party planned to conduct its primaries in three phases, starting with constituencies it does not have sitting MPs, which Phiri described as “a matter of strategy”.
In MCP, at the onset of the primaries in August, about 23 aspiring MPs took the party to court for alleged undemocratic and unconstitutional practices in the way the primaries were being handled.
Kasungu East MP Madalitso Kazombo, who lost primaries last month, has defied the odds opting to stand as an independent, accusing some senior MCP members of forming parallel structures to deal with those they dislike.
But MCP spokesperson Maurice Munthali said it was sad some people had chosen not to concede defeat although they know that in a contest there is supposed to be one winner, and losers.
“The party is appealing to all those who might not have made it through the primaries and also those who feel grieved in one way or the other to give dialogue a chance within the party’s ranks,” said Munthali.
The MCP primaries have been marred with controversies and violence to an extent that the exercise in some constituencies, such as Dedza East and Salima North-West, has been postponed.
Meanwhile, the party issued a memo calling for re-runs in selected constituencies, including Kasungu South East, Dedza Central East, Mchinji North and Mchinji North East, but some party members have argued it is better not to do the re-runs or hold them in all other disputed constituencies.
Last month, the party’s deputy spokesperson Ezekiel Ching’oma also questioned the manner in which the primaries were being conducted, especially in the Central Region, describing them as “very strange”.
Mzuzu-based political commentator Emily Mkamanga questioned how the ruling party was measuring the popularity of its candidates in constituencies where some aspirants are being blocked.
She, however, observed that restraining some candidates from competing would frustrate the victims, a development that will affect its performance in next year’s elections.
“There is lack of intra-party democracy. The party is supposed to open up the primary elections so that people at the grassroots come up with strong candidates of their choice. It will negatively impact the party,” she said.
Mkamanga also blamed poverty which she noted influences people not to accept defeat as they feel there is no life after politics.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Pasungwi.