- MEC starts receiving nominations
- Candidates to unmask running mates
This week marks the moment of truth in the presidential race as Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) will receive nomination papers from presidential hopefuls in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Through the exercise set to start today with Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera, hopefuls that have kept their choices of running mates close to their chests have only days to unmask their identity.
Chakwera alongside Tikonze People’s Movement led by former vice-president Cassim Chilumpha and independent hopeful Ras Chikomeni Kadelere Chirwa already made public their running mates.
However, at the weekend, a new twist emerged in the presidential race as Chilumpha, former president Joyce Banda of People’s Party (PP) and Enock Chihana of Alliance for Democracy (Aford) endorsed the candidacy of the country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima on UTM Party ticket.
Technically, the move meant that the three—Chilumpha, Banda and Chihana—have pulled out of the race, reducing the number of hopefuls from 23 to 20.
But MEC director for media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said in an interview yesterday that no candidate has formally communicated to the electoral body about their intentions to withdraw.
He said: “As we proceed in the week, the commission will be updating the nation if any candidate pulls out.”
Presidential candidates are set to present their nomination papers and unveil their running mates to MEC led by its chairperson ,Jane Ansah, at the Chichiri International Conference Centre, widely known as Comesa Hall, in Blantyre.
On the other hand, candidates for both parliamentary and local government elections would present their nomination papers to their respective constituency returning officers. In past elections, candidates for the two elections were submitting their nominations to district returning officers who are mostly district commissioners (DCs).
For presidential candidates, Mwafulirwa said the commission has allocated each candidate specific time for presentation and asked them to adhere to the allocated times.
He said: “No one just decides on the time of their own choice. We want to avoid clashes of supporters. The process of collecting nomination papers is open up to the February 8 2019 which also happens to be the last day for submitting nomination papers.
“Whoever collects nomination papers now should know that there will be no extension to the presentation time which is from Monday until Friday.”
Chakwera announced his party’s first vice-president Mohammad Sidik Mia as his running mate on December 2 2018 ostensibly because the MCP membership entrusted Mia to be his deputy at the convention.
Chikomeni, on the other hand, said he is picking his mother Niness Kayengo as his running mate because she has been his adviser all his life while Chilumpha settled for People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) president Mark Katsonga, a partner in their coalition.
Based on The Nation’s monitoring of social media chatter, three things are generating interest in relation to the presidential race. The first is the mystery of who incumbent President Peter Mutharika leading the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and his estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima of UTM Party will pair with.
The second issue is whether United Democratic Front (UDF) president Atupele Muluzi, a Cabinet minister in the Mutharika administration, will stand given the former’s working relationship in Parliament with DPP.
Third is if Muluzi choose not to stand, which horse would he back? Will he sway towards DPP, UTM or MCP?
Meanwhile, MCP publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali said his party was ready present its presidential candidate for the race.
In a telephone interview, he said: “We have been pacesetters in the run up to these landmark elections having unveiled our running mate before other parties did… We were also the first to hold primary elections.”
Ironically, Mutharika and Chilima paired in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections in what was touted as one of the best combinations encompassing public and private sector hands-on experiences, the rest are keeping their choices close to the chest, thereby heightening social media speculation and debate on possible pairings.
Mutharika is on record as having said he picked Chilima, who was Airtel Malawi Limited managing director at the time, “from a list of 40 possible names for running mate” because he had a background in business and was decisive. However, the pair, like their predecessors, fell out along the way and they will face-off in the presidential race. n