2018—the penultimate year of the electoral circle—is almost here. Politically, it promises to be a gruesome, but quite interesting year.
Already, the real battle appears between the top two in the last presidential elections—the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) torchbearer President Peter Mutharika and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera.
If you believe pollster Afrobarometer—and perhaps you ought to, thanks to its record, including predicting DPP’s unlikely victory in 2014— Chakwera is well poised to become Malawi’s sixth president.
To be very accurate, Afrobarometer, early in the year conducted a survey whose findings indicated that if elections were held then, Malawians would remove Mutharika from power, and vote in Chakwera.
Adding traction to the notion that Chakwera has a serious shot at forming the next government, MCP trounced DPP 5-1 in recent by-elections, including in areas MCP long forgot of winning.
It must have sent shivers down the spine of the ruling party!
But the ex-preacher is far from the Promised Land. First, not all is rosy in our version of Grand-Old- Party. Factionalism apart, a bruising convention is slated somewhere in 2018 with all positions, including Chakwera’s, up for grabs.
If he wins, his support to any of the party’s vice-presidential hopefuls at the convention, currently, poised between the incumbent and Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, newcomer-cum-famed moneybags, former Cabinet member Sidik Mia, will have serious repercussions on the party’s unity and prospects.
And when the opponent is ‘mighty’ DPP, one can only bet their money against DPP for financial suicide. DPP is an election winning machine that leaves nothing to chance, but thrives on organisational skills and strategy.
Like MCP, the ruling party has a strong constituency that is tribal and loyal to bone marrow; blind followers who support the Mutharika brand through thick and thin. Like nemesis MCP, these followers care little about policies or performance, it’s never twist for them, always stick!
But, of course, 2018 will not just be a big year for DPP and MCP. To some extent, it’s bigger for former ruling parties, People’s Party (PP) and United Democratic Front (UDF).
Either party faces a very bleak future. Their popularity has been dwindling since surrendering levers of power. The year 2018 arrives too early for these cousins; as they emerge as small coalition partners with little victory prospects.
For PP, it’s even more perilous. Its lawmakers are openly flirting with rival parties. The party’s runaway love leadership is in form of ex-president still holed up in self-imposed exile. Joyce Banda, in her own words, is scared of arrest on some trumped up charges or assassination to back home.
Will Banda exorcise her ghosts and return, in time, to save PP from disintegrating? Former loyalists, such as Uladi Mussa—whom Banda trusted with the party’s leadership mantle, as acting leader—recently attempted, in vain, to oust her as party president.
In UDF, the Muluzi dynasty is still firmly in charge with its grip appearing under no immediate threat. But discord on how the party is run—as personal-to-holder for the Muluzi family, is bubbling underneath the surface. Lucius Banda, one of the party’s few remaining legislators—the party now has a paltry 14 MPs—rejected the party’s decision to join forces with ruling DPP in Parliament.
It might be all peace for now, but don’t bet against someone launching a revolution in ‘the party from the east’, as Banda scathingly describes UDF in a newly-released song. In the song, Banda takes no prisoners, including his own party.
Soldier, as Banda is fondly known, reminds all and sundry, that UDF members—including himself, who was imprisoned during the late Bingu wa Mutharika era— were victimised by the DPP government.
But will anyone else surprise us? Will there be a new political entrance with a bang? Can Vice-President Saulos Chilima get too frustrated with DPP or get kicked out—like previous occupants of the office— and is forced to form own party?
Will Prophet Shepherd Bushiri decide that being leader for some mega church is not ‘cool’ enough but must go after politics, too?
“Your worst enemy could be your best friend and your best friend your worst enemy,” Bob Marley advises in ‘Who the Cap fit Most’. There are no permanent friends and foes in politics, too. What a year ahead of us, folks.