Failure to handle primaries disputes would negatively affect political parties’ performance during May 2014 Tripartite Elections, analysts have warned.
The warning comes after several disputes in parliamentary elections primaries were reported in some political parties, especially People’s Party (PP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Associate professor of Political and Administrative Studies at Chancellor College Happy Kayuni warned that disgruntled candidates who decide to stand as independent candidates would likely split votes, hence diminish the parties’ chances of winning.
“Unlike the previous election year, competition is going to be stiff this year. And things will be made worse if the parties split candidates because that will split votes.
“So, the solution to all this is to allow free and fair primaries where even a losing candidate will agree that they are indeed fair and he or she will never contest. But in most cases, political parties have their own candidates which make them play dirty games and allow him or her to win thus, prompting losing candidates to stand as independents,” he said.
Another analyst, Augustine Magolowondo agreed with Kayuni that losing candidates split votes.
“The net effect is that supporters split between the party candidate and an independent one. Depending on the electoral strength of other candidates, both candidates may lose. In addition, there tend to be factions within parties; one for party candidates and the other for independents and such divisions weaken the parties,” he said.
PP general secretary Paul Maulidi admitted that it is not easy to prevent disgruntled candidates from standing as independents.
He said even in cases where primaries were free and fair, losing candidates would still want to stand as independents.
“Where four candidates are contesting, only one will win, but you will find losers contest. There is nothing we can do about it,” he said.
DPP publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi agreed with Maulidi that parties are powerless to stop losers from standing as independents.
“It’s worrisome to us, but it’s their democratic right and there is nothing we can do to stop them,” said Dausi.
In PP, a cloud of controversy still hangs over Karonga Central Constituency where Dr Cornelius Mwalwanda won primaries after beating Frank Mwenifumbo. Persistent reports of a rerun from some PP senior party officials despite secretary general Paul Maulidi dismissing them, have brought more confusion in the area.
In Rumphi East, PP deputy publicity secretary Ken Msonda is contesting primaries which Kamlepo Kalua won
In DPP, there was a rerun in Mulanje Pasani where Angie Kaliati, husband to party director of women affairs, Patricia Kaliati, beat incumbent legislator, Peter Nowa who has since said he will stand as an independent candidate, claiming violence during primaries.
DPP primaries were also mired in controversy in some constituencies in Mulanje, Thyolo, Nsanje and Chikhwawa.