Some major political parties have conceded that the large number of aspiring MPs standing as independent candidates is threatening their chances of winning in the May 20 Tripartite Elections.
Out of 1 290 parliamentary candidates approved by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), 426 are independent aspirants, representing 33 percent of the candidates.
People’s Party (PP) acting secretary general Paul Maulidi said although the party is confident of winning the elections, it is worried by the big number of its former members who are standing as independent candidates.
Maulidi admitted that the situation will likely weaken the party’s chances of winning in constituencies where it is contesting.
“In a democracy, what do you do? We did all we could to hold primaries because we didn’t want to handpick candidates. If there were any hiccups, that is part of life.
“The problem, however, is [selfishness] among most people because after losing they were supposed to support the winners, but they decided to stand as independents,” he said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said although the emergence of independent candidates from the ranks of the party is undesirable, the people who left the party to stand as independents only exercised their democratic right.
“The advantage of democracy is that people have the right and fundamental freedom of choice, which could not be impinged. As a party, we are focusing on the 193 candidates who are representing the DPP,” he said.
Also confessing that independent aspirants pose a threat is United Democratic Front (UDF) secretary general Kandi Padambo, who said it is a challenge to the party.
Political scientist Nandini Patel said the large number of independents is a sign of weak political party institutionalisation that will continue haunting parties unless the problem is addressed.
Chancellor College political analyst Blessings Chinsinga said the large number of independents should teach political parties a lesson on how to organise themselves in the interest of their members.
“The large number will likely disintegrate the votes that should have gone to a particular party. But this only reflects the fact that although parties have increasingly been conducting primary polls, they are not as satisfactory as they should have been,” said Chinsinga.
Independent candidates have been on the rise since the 2004 elections. The country had no independent MP in 1994 before registering four in 1999.
The figure multiplied tenfold in 2004 when 40 were elected on an independent ticket before decreasing to 32 in 2009 out of 489 contestants.