Following revelations that the relationship between President Peter Mutharika and Vice-President Saulos Chilima is unenviable, a political scientist has attributed the fall out of presidents with vice-presidents to glorification of presidents.
Our sister newspaper Weekend Nation yesterday put on the spotlight the relationship between Mutharika and Chilima, reporting that the connection between the two has grown colder.
But Chancellor College political analyst Boniface Dulani said in an interview party members have always turned presidents into semi-gods or chiefs of some sort, adding chiefs do not have deputies.
Dulani said it was difficult to find a solution to this problem because presidents yield too much power and that followers have made the office of the Vice-President look useless or irrelevant.
“But this is a sad situation, to say the least. The Vice-President’s office is a constitutional office that must be respected. The Vice-President may be a victim of his good performance on public sector reforms,” Dulani said.
He said it is high time the President and his deputy worked together without problems as others have done elsewhere, citing former US President Barrack Obama and his deputy Joe Biden, among others.
In Malawi, coupled by weak intraparty democracy, where party conventions are mostly staged, leaders of political parties who happen to be in position of influence as President, have always toyed around with party members such that it has remained within their power to pick running mates.
The first democratic president, Bakili Muluzi, who came in power in 1994, with Justin Malewezi as vice-president, only got along with his vice-president in the first-term, but after they won the 1999 polls, cracks between them started to show.
Although they tried to cover it up, it showed things were not rosy in the United Democratic Front (UDF) camp and Malewezi—a very quiet politician—resigned as vice-president a year before the 2004 polls.
Muluzi, after a failed third-term and open-term bids, had already started grooming Bingu wa Mutharika to carry the UDF flag in the 2004 polls and was paired with Cassim Chilumpha, apparently a running mate Mutharika did not like from the word go.
They won the presidency together, but barely a year on, the writing was on the wall that they could not work together.
Mutharika, amid tension and reports that he was sidelining Muluzi, and some voices openly siding with the former president, dropped a bombshell in February 2005, announcing during an anti-corruption day function in Blantyre that he had quit UDF, claiming the party was shrouded in corruption.
Mutharika went on to form the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a move that led most UDF senior officials to dump their party and join him.
Chilumpha, who remained in UDF, faced all sorts of accusations, including treason that led to his arrest.
Mutharika in 2009 polls picked Joyce Banda as running mate, however, after winning the presidency he later accused her of forming parallel structures.
While serving as Vice-President, Banda formed the Peoples Party (PP) in readiness of the 2014 polls. However, Bingu died on April 5 2012, and following constitutional order, she took over as Head of State. n