It is nine months to the 2019 PPE. But the mood is already intimidating and there are strong indications the campaign will get dirtier. The coming into the fray of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) led by the Vice-President Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC), has obviously added sting to a poisoned chalice. UTM’s emergence as a force not to be wished away seems to have shaken both the governing Democratic Progress Party (DPP) and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the two parties whose earlier following created the feeling that the 2019 elections will be a two-horse race, to their roots. With the new kid on the block, and the elective conferences for both DPP and MCP which endorsed APM and Lazarus Chakwera, as their torchbearers, the two parties now have their jobs cut clearly out. They need to go back to the drawing board and restrategise.
But there are other political parties which could sway the vote depending on what alliances are forged. These are the People’s Party (PP) whose leader, Joyce Banda, has stated that if her supporters want her to appear on the ballot paper, so be it. PP holds its convention on August 30 to make that crucial decision. The other ace is the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Atupele Muluzi who was re-elected as president at the party’s convention two weeks ago. UDF which is in a working alliance with the DPP has stated that its executive will decide whether or not to go into an alliance in the elections. But from the tone of statements especially from the elder Muluzi, who is the party’s main financier, one cannot avoid sensing that the party may support the DPP. But it is still early days. If it becomes clear this is the direction UDF will take, there will be stronger pressure for MCP and UTM to also seek an alliance with the PP and other opposition parties. As they say, an early bird catches the worm. What seems quite clear is that the opposition block is more determined to gang up against the DPP to boost their chances of jettisoning the DPP out of power.
DPP’s main undoing is its lip service on corruption which is endemic as well as government’s failure to improve people’s living standards.
But whether out of ineptitude or that it has run out of strategies to handle UTM, DPP has resorted to using dirty tricks to try and frustrate the newcomer on the political scene.
DPP has also gone on the overdrive, even petty. Last week APM threatened to drop on SKC and Callista Mutharika—his estranged in-law—like a tonne of bricks on them if they continued “insulting” the President said the Head of State is protected under the law.
In a fit of anger, APM touched a raw nerve from gender activists when he showed that he does not want Callista, associated with the name Mutharika, calling her by her maiden name—Chapola. The gender activists argued the former first lady is still entitled to use the name Mutharika and calling her by anything else is an affront on the womenfolk.
APM went as far as alleging that when the former president Bingu wa Mutharika collapsed after a cardiac arrest (MHSRIP), instead of rushing to the hospital, Callista was busy transferring property from State House to Area 10. APM said she only showed up at the hospital after six hours, a statement which contradicts a Commission of Inquiry report which records that the former first lady went to the hospital in the morning. Some commentators say MBC risks being sued for airing such libelous statements.
In a clear move of hitting back at DPP’s political opponents, the government has canceled contracts for two prominent members of the UTM, Richard Makondi—who won a car tracking tender and Newton Kambala—whose Mkaka Construction was earlier awarded a government contract which has now been withdrawn.
This is nine months away, and the political playground is already littered with so much dirt. What will happen when the polls are a few months or weeks away? That is the question many people are asking. It is likely to get bloodier. Commentators say APM and DPP should slow down on hate speeches and intimidations which have no place in a multiparty dispensation.