Now that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader of the House Francis Kasaila has confirmed the secret coalition of the party with United Democratic Front (UDF), FATSANI GUNYA sought the views of political analyst Dr Henry Chingaipe, who sheds more light on the development by, among other things, calling the affair ‘cosy’.
Q: Now that the cat is finally out of the bag; what do you make of the secret coalition between the two political parties?
Basically, my view is that DPP and UDF, or to be more precise the parliamentary and governing parts of these political parties are in some kind of an evidently cosy, but not clearly defined relationship. For lack of a better concept to describe it, let us call it a ‘governing pact’ mainly because it involves, almost exclusively, partisan politicians that have elected political posts in the State establishment. The general and ordinary membership of the parties; that is those that are not serving in Cabinet or in Parliament, appear to be excluded from the arrangement. It is an arrangement between the elected political elites of the parties. As such, I find it difficult to call it a coalition as not all members are involved nor were all concerned consulted; hence making it a secret ‘coalition’.
Q: Although it has been termed ‘secret’, is it a surprise that the two parties are a team?
A: Actually, I have to hasten to say the arrangement is not surprising to me. I, personally, expected a closer relationship after UDF president Atupele Muluzi was appointed into Cabinet. You will also recall that President Peter Mutharika’s Cabinet came in bits and pieces, so to speak. This indicated that he was having a somewhat difficult time to choose his lean Cabinet of 20 ministerial posts in total, with the President and his vice included. However, the choice of the UDF president was not that difficult as he came through in the first lot of ministers.
Q: Who are the leading players in all this?
My best guess is that it was being worked out between the President and Atupele (or, who knows; even Bakili Muluzi himself); and thereby making it between UDF and DPP; by extension. However, the political parties at that time indicated that there was no agreement “whatsoever” between the parties. Nevertheless, the recent pattern on the country’s political landscape tends to suggest otherwise.
Talk of recent collaborations that include UDF and DPP members of Parliament holding a ‘joint caucus’; what of the UDF not fielding candidates in by-elections and UDF president and members making financial contributions to the DPP campaign in the by-elections. All this construe to an agreement between Mutharika and Muluzi that has slowly but significantly been extended to the political parties. There now seems to be some kind of unity of purpose between the parties; literally flowing from agreements made at a personal level by their political elites or bigwigs.
Q: So, how secret is this secret coalition?
Well, no. It is neither a secret nor a coalition. To start with, the joint parliamentary caucuses are known to the public. However, not everything about this arrangement is in the public domain. Unfortunately, that seem to be the order of Malawian politics, I mean politics everywhere tend to take this same path.
It is not a coalition because technically, the arrangement does not satisfy some of the important elements for a coalition.
Q: What are those arrangements you are talking about in this regard.
First, the two parties did not fight the election together. They actually fought against each other. Secondly, DPP did not need UDF to govern after they won the election. If the current arrangement fell apart, the government would still function as if nothing ever happened. With coalitions, the scenarios would be very different. The UDF/DPP arrangement is simply some kind of a ‘a political pact’ that began with agreements at personal level and over time, following the drift of patrimonial politics that characterise our political leaders, extended to their political parties..
Much is said about there being strength in unity; and you have just sounded skeptical about this particular pact. With the alliance coming soon after the May tripartite polls, what does this suggest for the future?
I must be honest with you; it is pretty difficult to do some predictive analysis of Malawian politics. However, it can be said that both Muluzi and Mutharika are repositioning themselves for the future. This may affect or shape the incentive structures of their parties differently, for good or worse. Only time will tell. For now, all I can say is the world is watching; and watching closely!