It is a well known fact that the DPP-UDF electoral alliance, announced earlier this week, has turned the heat on MCP and UTM to do something or forget wresting the State Presidency from DPP’s Peter Mutharika.
The pressure on the two political parties to form a unified electoral force for the May 19 2020 fresh presidential election is strong from both the parties’ rank and file and the wider constituency clamouring for regime change.
It is easy to predict that in the DPP-UDF electoral alliance, Mutharika will be the front-runner while the UDF leader Atupele Muluzi, may be given the runningmate position. This is also the reason it was easy for the two parties to strike a deal soon after Parliament set May 19 2020 as the date for the fresh presidential elections following the Constitutional Court’s nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election.
But the same is not so obvious for a possible electoral alliance between MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera and UTM’s Saulos Chilima. It is the view if this writer that should Chakwera fail to pair with Chilima in an electoral alliance now, he and his MCP will still be in opposition after the May 19 2020 fresh presidential elections. It is therefore incumbent upon Chakwera to therefore bend over backwards and secure a union with Chilima.
On face value, one could argue that MCP is stronger than UTM. In the May 21 2019 presidential elections, Chakwera came second after amassing 35.4 percent of the votes against Chilima who polled 20.7 percent of the votes. But one would argue that despite being a very new political party on the land, the UTM leader demonstrated great dynamism and potential to win an election.
But the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court (Concourt) nullified these polls because the electoral process lacked integrity. They are therefore not a credible measure of the strength of the top three presidential candidates in the nullified polls.
MCP can, however, tout its numerical strength in Parliament (55 legislators against UTM’s measly four) to claim that it is bigger than UTM and therefore more deserving to lead an alliance between the two parties if they were to form one. But then this is not a parliamentary election.
MCP can also cite the October 2018 Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) survey results which also put MCP’s Chakwera who got 27 percent ahead of Chilima who polled 16 percent.
From the same Ipor findings, whose results followed the same pattern as the anulled elections, it is very clear that not even the DPP-UDF alliance can garner straight 50%+1 votes in the fresh elections.
Similarly, both MCP and UTM would not get 50%+1 if they decide to go solo. UTM can, however, still use the same Ipor findings in which Chilima the new kid on the bloc came third .
But Chilima will not be excited to settle for number two in an MCP-UTM alliance. He is already vice-president and has been one for five years—a position that comes with a life-long pension. He would therefore not want to settle for less. There is, therefore, nothing to incentivize him short of getting the most prized position. That is how difficult and complicated the negotiations for an MCP-UTM electoral alliance is.
Nonetheless, from the two previous results, the probability is that Chilima will most certainly still come third in the fresh elections should he go solo. Ironically, this is what will make him a highly prized and sought-after partner in the ensuing run-off. In such an event, both Mutharika and Chakwera will be knocking on Chilima’s door for his hand in marriage to reach the 50%+1 threshold. This is when Chilima will make his gold. We know for a fact that the stakes are too big. Chilima will go along with the biggest bidder leaving Chakwera where he is now–in the opposition.
All things considered, it is fair to say there is no clear underdog in the possible MCP-UTM electoral alliance. If they ever negotiate for an electoral alliance, they will have to do so as equal partners. Both parties should be prepared to give and take. Political parties exist so that they can field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected to public office and thereby implement the party’s agenda. If they don’t want to form an electoral winning formula, then they are serving other agendas not the interests of the people.