Hon Folks, those championing change of leadership in the governing DPP have really stirred mud in the pool for APM. Their justification for a take-over by Veep Saulos Chilima is, in the same breath, an admission that APM’s first term is a flop.
Such sentiments from APM’s own base—regardless of whether or not they’ll change the status quo—speak louder than any opposition campaign message to those who hold the swing vote.
The internal opposition to incumbency in DPP is unprecedented in the 24 years of the multiparty dispensation, if not in the entire post-colonial history of Malawi. Past conflicts emanated when a sitting president tried to stay longer than was legally permissible.
APM has openly declared he would represent DPP in 2019 and that has also been echoed by party gurus such as vice president for the South George Chaponda. However, he has not uttered a single disparaging word against Chilima save by saying change of guards will give away the presidency to MCP.
On his part, Chilima has kept his cards to his chest, saying not a word on the suggested take-over, leaving it all to his supporters to fight for the cause they seem to be passionately eager to defend to the hilt.
But what are his chances? The team Chilima says if APM does not willfully pave way for their preferred candidate then the position of DPP presidential candidate for the 2019 elections should be contested for at the party’s convention. They say it’s only with Chilima at the helm that DPP stands a chance to win in the 2019 presidential race.
APM has countered that by saying he would contest to secure victory for the party in the 2019 polls. He argues that changing guards will help MCP enjoy a walk-over to the presidential palace. In other words, he’s the best there’s in the party to contest and win presidential elections.
It’s a kind of thinking that brings to memory the madeya (chaff) metaphor former president Bakili Muluzi and his cronies used towards the end of his second term to parry internal opposition to his overtures to extend his tenure beyond the constitutionally stipulated two consecutive five-year terms.
The other day Chaponda told a press conference APM will stand because he can’t be denied the right to stand again when the Constitution of Malawi allows for that. Indeed Section 83(3) of the Constitution states that the President…may serve…a maximum of two consecutive terms”
But it’s not as if the Chilima camp is violating that provision. It’s simply not ready to allow APM a free sail to another term. They want him to first seek their fresh mandate at a convention and brace for a showdown with their favoured candidate—Chilima.
I dare say that in the name of democracy, that strategy is smarter than the pro-APM camp’s effort to legitimise the President’s candidature in 2019 by endorsement while vowing that the position of presidential candidate for DPP won’t be open for contest at the convention.
The more they push in that direction, the less democratic they look at a time when the trend of thought is that lack of intra-party democracy is the reason why there’s diminishing democratic space at the national level. Who wants imposed leaders in this 21st Century and when our own democracy is 24 years old!
True, DPP was founded by APM’s late brother, Bingu, in 2005 to provide a political footstool for Bingu’s administration after he had ditched UDF, the party that sponsored his presidential candidacy in 2004.
But DPP can only be the party “of the people, by the people and for the people” if it is to survive, grow and remain relevant under the multiparty dispensation. Which is why, the convention is the right forum for deciding who, between APM and Chilima, should be the DPP torchbearer in the next five years.