The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday officially broke its silence after some top officials openly declared that the party would lose if President Peter Mutharika vies for the second term in the forthcoming 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The ‘critics’ argue that the 79-year-old Mutharika will be a liability to his party in next year’s general elections on account of his old age. They say the President should retire at the end of his current five-year term and allow his 45-year-old Vice-President Saulos Chilima to contest on the governing DPP’s ticket.
Mutharika’s in-law, former first lady Callista Mutharika, crafted and broke the message on a social media platform last week before owning it up in interviews on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS).
Reacting to the sentiments at a press conference in Lilongwe yesterday, DDP party leaders from across Malawi accused Callista Mutharika of trying to divide the party’s strategy to feature Mutharika as the torch-bearer and Chilima as his running-mate, as was the case in the 2014 polls.
“We want to assure Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika and his vice Dr. Saulosi Klaus Chilima that women in DPP will not allow anyone to divide the party. And we will always make sure that we work together towards the 2019 Tripartite Elections and win with a landslide,” declared DPP deputy publicity secretary Zeria Chakale.
Visibly angry, the leaders took turns in rebuking Callista Mutharika and branding her a fake party member, arguing that she has no right to choose a presidential candidate on behalf of DPP.
They said the former first lady should shut up and keep the personal opinions to herself, particularly since the President has not complained of failing to deliver on his promises because of old age.
However, there were no such flaring remarks against Callista Mutharika when, later yesterday, members of the DPP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) responded to the matter.
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi told journalists at a press conference DPP is not divided as the media is claiming.
Dausi, who was flanked by the party’s district chairpersons and its vice-presidents from the country’s four regions, said everyone in the party is free to express their opinions, therefore, those opinions cannot divide the party.
He said: “We believe that she [Callista Mutharika] was merely expressing her personal opinion on the party’s presidential candidate for next year’s elections. This is democracy, there are no divisions at all in the ruling DPP following what she expressed in the media. There is no cause for a sour relationship between the President and the former first lady,” he said.
DPP Eastern Region vice-president Bright Msaka said the party follows principles of democracy which allow people to have different views as expressed by the former first lady.
“We believe in the principles of democracy, every person is a free individual and has a right to express their opinions which we allow people to do which is a healthy democracy,” he said.
Msaka said the party will hold its convention soon, insisting APM will be their torchbearer come 2019.
He said: “The choice of a running mate remains a presidential choice. In 2014, it pleased him to choose Saulos Chilima. So we cannot tell you his choice because we cannot speak for him.”
Although the party maintains that it is not divided, there have been calls from influential figures within the party requesting Mutharika to rethink his decision to stand again.
In a telephone interview with The Nation yesterday, political commentator Nandin Patel warned the governing party to take views of people seriously if it is to realise its dream of maintaining power in 2019.
She said: “I do not know the reason why DPP supporters are reacting aggressively against a small opinion. The party should take what is happening seriously and it should note all the concerns of people in the party. Members of the party should have the right to express their views on the candidate they want.” n