Now that the pain of watching a cabal masquerading as our government for six years, has subsided— thanks to its crushing election defeat during the June elections— we can now say something we could not fathom just two months ago. As a country and democracy, we need the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
We now need the mighty DPP to be as strong and viable as it can possibly be. We need our immediate former ruling party, as an alternative government, but also provide checks and balances to the current administration. It’s how democracy works, anyway.
But, just what kind of DPP do we need? And realistically, what kind of DPP will we get?
Plainly, the series of defeats on the street, in court and at the ballot, has done little to persuade DPP to embrace a moment of reckoning.
There has been no acceptance of the reasons many marched for months on the streets, why so many braved threats and rejected bribe money to ensure DPP ouster, why so many forced the principle leaders of opposition to unite, in spite of the rivalry and egos, to form a formidable election alliance that would guarantee DPP’s ouster and, indeed, when the ballots trickled in, many ticked against a DPP return to power.
There has been no revision to the ideals—or the idea—that led to the formation of the DPP by its patriarch Bingu wa Mutharika, who while parachuted into State House by the UDF, still found its corruption and negligence, both nauseating and upsetting.
Or revisiting the reasons that made DPP thrive in its infancy during the golden days of Bingu’s memorable first term. There hasn’t been, yet, any of such reckoning.
What we have seen, on the contrary, amid a myriad revelations of wrong-doing and subsequent prosecutions of those allegedly involved in plunder and other excesses of power during an increasingly kleptocracy, DPP has jumped to the defence of the accused, guilty or not guilty.
And true to its current moral bankruptcy, the party has—shamelessly—even assailed the new administration for the various investigations, impugning that all investigations, present and those to come, are a political witch-hunt exercise.
All that has laid bare the moral decay of a party that once championed, under the first Mutharika, zero-tolerance to corruption.
But, perhaps, all this ought to have been expected. After all, you cannot teach old dogs new tricks, as our ancestors once taught us. While voters rejected the policies and excesses of the second Mutharika, the party is still betrothed to its ageing and, let’s whisper this one, incompetent leader.
Just like when he was State president and his word was law in the party, the DPP sees no need to move with urgency on succession or revamp its grassroots structures. They still cling to a strongman, not strong systems.
Still smarting from the election clobbering, the DPP has not even held a national executive committee meeting for some stock taking and postmortem exercises. A few voices that have called for change have been rebuked into silence.
Its alliance with UDF seems as hazy as over, with Mutharika devoid of popularity as much as energy, the party is rudderless and leaderless. That, though, didn’t matter much when the party had the State apparatus—especially funds and State propaganda machinery—at its disposal. It could then attract as many opportunists as possible and bribe as many people and institutions possible—of course save by the courts.
But now DPP is in opposition, many of its ranks will soon defect to the ruling party (and the opportunists already are), many of its senior ranks will be jailed (at the rate Area 30 and ACB are dropping handcuffs) and some of its base will defect to support to the ruling party.
All this is the incentive for DPP to do the right thing, right now. The right thing is reengaging, honestly, the question of why DPP exists and what politics ought to be. All this requires serious introspection of what really happened in the last six years and what the next five years ought to be.
DPP ought to genuinely challenge for power again, for our democracy to thrive. For Tonse government not to get too complacent, too, we need DPP. But, we need a DPP that can attract enough talent, that is not a reserve for some old out of sync folks and it is not a bastion for nepotism and cronyism.
That can only happen if the old guard accepts the writing on the wall. That will only happen if the DPP reviews its constitution and policies to ensure that the party presidency, just like the current debate on the State presidency, doesn’t hold all the cards and its overstretched powers are trimmed.
What is obtaining, right now, is a party obsessed with the idea that the current administration, soon or later, will mishap—be it resumption of orgy of corruption and nepotism—that will prove its undoing, hence, the DPP will pounce. Meanwhile, the DPP rank and file is secretly canvassing for Mutharika and the functionaries support for succession amid back-knifing and confusion.
That, though, is a flawed policy. It will take a catastrophic breakdown in governance for people to consider DPP a better devil to the current administration; you must be a fool to bet all your cards on that.