As time draws closer to next year’s tripartite elections, some major political parties have started planning for national conventions to elect their torch bearers.
Out of the five political parties represented in Parliament, three–Alliance for Democracy (Aford), Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Democratic Front (UDF)–have indicated they are doing something about the big meet.
While the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was not available yesterday, Peoples Party secretary general Ibrahim Matola said “we will tell you when we are ready for that.”
The country is expected to go for the second tripartite elections in May next year in what is expected to be a two-man battle between President Peter Mutharika, the DPP leader, and MCP president Lazarus Chakwera , who is also leader of opposition in Parliament.
In an interview yesterday, MCP secretary general Gustave Kaliwo said the party had not yet discussed the issue of the national convention but would be meeting to discuss the issue.
He said: “We have not yet discussed about it but the party management is meeting this weekend followed by the national executive committee [NEC] meeting where the issue of convention is likely to be on the agenda.”
On his part, UDF publicity secretary Ken Ndanga also said they were yet to draw a date for the convention but were in the process of instituting a committee for the same.
“We are still in the process of coming up with a committee which will manage the affairs. The team will come up with the date, venue, also fundraise for the national conference.
“Last time our budget was at K40 million but due to several factors including inflation that figure is likely to be adjusted upwards,” he said.
As for Aford, the party’s NEC already agreed to hold their national gathering in April. It became the first party to announce the date.
Aford’s announcement followed a protracted wrangle between the party’s two factions- one headed by its president Enock Chihana and the other headed by the secretary general Christopher Ritchie.
The Ritchie faction had been agitating to have the party’s convention in December last year following the expiry of Chihana’s mandate last September.
Aford, once popular in the country, has set a minimum budget of K15 million.
However, Chihana told The Nation last week that the party would have to properly look at its structures before holding the convention.
He said: “We have a lot of mess to fix and restructure the party. Aford has to clean its house first.”
DPP secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey and administrative secretary Francis Mphepo referred The Nation to the party’s publicity secretary Francis Kasaila, whose phone went unanswered after several call attempts.
But commenting on the looming conventions, University of Malawi’s (Unima) political scientist associate professor Happy Kayuni said people must not read too much into them as they are not generally heavily contested.
He said in terms of the presidency of the parties, the current leadership will likely retain their positions.
However, Kayuni observed that perhaps major contests will be in other positions such as general secretaries and treasurers.
“For instance in MCP, you don’t expect major contenders because the party has always been saying it already appointed Chakwera as a torch bearer in 2019.
“In PP and UDF, too, as we speak they are in unofficial alliance with the DPP so most unlikely they will have a presidential candidate in 2019, so there is not much to expect from them,” he noted.
For Aford, Kayuni doubted if the party’s current internal wrangles would be resolved by the convention.
“I think their problems need to be settled outside the convention. They need to discuss and agree before the convention,” he said.