This week’s happenings in the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) point to one truth in the upcoming elections: the electorate can always trust MCP to lose the race at the last hurdle, not for lack of endurance but of their own making.
If the court drama that characterised the run-up to the convention did not break MCP, the same cannot be said of the ongoing mess that is the primary elections.
Clearly, MCP failed to prepare and use party intelligence to understand the dynamics that were likely to mess up the primary elections.
The genesis of the problems in the party stemmed from the ‘new’ blood that came into MCP with the belief that they were the president Lazarus Chakwera’s favourite.
Then there are those who rode on the back of their unflinching and embarrassing support for moneybags; Sidik Mia, and declared those expressing dissenting views as ‘nkholokolo’.
By the time the convention rolled around, it favoured these two groups and it is them running the primaries with impunity.
It must have never occurred to MCP that primary elections would decide how ready the party was to take over from DPP come 2019.
But with the blunders that they have made since the primaries started this week, hope is likely lost to ever come out of the opposition wilderness in which MCP has languished for 24 years.
For starters, it was someone’s brilliant idea to ask aspirants to sign a document forcing them into abiding by provisions that have zero legal basis.
MCP asked aspirants that in the event that they lost the primary elections, that candidate would not contest as an independent candidate in the May elections even when persuaded by members of the party or public.
The absurdity of such a demand comes from mistakes which MCP made in the past and it boggles the mind that they have not learned from it.
An aspirant cannot decide to go at it alone if he is not sure that it is the constituents’ wish that he be their candidate.
A disgruntled aspirant whose lifeblood is Congress would not contest on the ticket of any other party if the love and loyalty that he gave to the party is not rewarded with primaries that are free and fair.
In forcing aspirants to sign that document, MCP is very right to fear United Transformation Movement (UTM) will move in on their weaknesses and do better. UTM has promised to field candidates in all 193 constituencies and they do not seem to relent.
MCP has played a role in giving UTM the credibility it has garnered in these past six weeks and messing up these primaries will just play into the movement’s hands.
UTM needs a disorganised opposition and MCP is becoming just that, not to speak of the hibernating People’s Party (PP) and practically non-existent Alliance for Democracy (Aford).
It is a given fact that most losers in these primaries will contest as independent candidates in 2019 elections.
It is also expected that once again at least 70 percent of incumbents will not return to the August House and much as MCP touts itself for the high retention levels, the political field is not so predictable as it used to be.
There is UTM in the picture and it has not come to play if the attention it is getting from fellow opposition is anything to go by.
As MCP should remember its worst performance since becoming opposition when in 2009 when they miserably lost to a four year old Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in their own backyard, central region.
DPP can tout to have 50 seats it can take without opposition, MCP has a definite 41, United Democratic Front (UDF) has its 11 in the east and PP has about eight leaving 83 seats for anybody’s taking including UTM.
If MCP does not sort out this mess, it will be a nine month old UTM that embarrasses them at the polls and there will be no recovering from that loss.