United Democratic Front (UDF) regional governors have asked the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to start working on contesting the 2019 presidential elections.
They have also asked Atupele Muluzi to come clear on the party’s relationship with DPP ahead of the elections, Weekend Nation has learnt.
Since the 2014 elections, UDF has been in a parliamentary relationship with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
But at last month’s UDF NEC meeting in Blantyre, the regional governors asked the leadership to contest at presidential level, sources in the party have revealed.
The governors feared that DPP and UDF might form a political coalition during the 2019 elections on condition that Muluzi will be a running-mate.
But UDF spokesperson Ken Ndanga, in an interview yesterday, said the party will not settle for the running-mate position.
He also confirmed that the governors are protesting any move to go to the polls on a DPP ticket.
Said Ndanga: “It is true that regional governors asked the party leadership to contest at presidential level. The governors specifically asked Muluzi to contest as a UDF president at the convention so that he could contest at the 2019 elections.”
The UDF publicist said the party is yet to decide who will contest at the presidential level, as the party’s convention, to be held in the first quarter of 2018 will decide who the 2019 presidential candidate will be.
However, long time challenger of the UDF leadership on the DPP working relationship, Balaka North legislator Lucius Banda said he will contest against Muluzi at the party’s convention if Muluzi will not come out clear on the party’s working relationship with DPP.
“If Atupele comes out of the DPP relationship I will support him, but if he is not clear, I will be forced to contest against him in order to save the party from dying,” he said.
Banda said a lot of UDF members—at different levels—are supporting his candidature but he will be obliged to contest if Muluzi does not clarify the party’s relationship with the DPP.
“I am duty-bound to protect the party and save it from dying. I am observing what is happening at the moment. I will contest against Muluzi if he is not clear about his position with DPP,” he said.
One UDF source confided in Weekend Nation that there is a bit of confusion in the party as it seems the leadership was banking on the position of running-mate to the DPP candidate.
“The issue of regional governors asking the party to contest at the presidential level would be a scapegoat to cover up the party’s indecision. If Muluzi is offered the position of DPP running-mate he would not think twice about what the NEC says or thinks.
“In short, the future of UDF is in the hands of the DPP,” he said.
On the working relationship between UDF and DPP, Ndanga said the parliamentary working relationship could not be construed as a coalition of the two parties, adding that the parties only cooperate at parliamentary level.
“We have a parliamentary coalition with DPP and nothing like party-to-party. We cannot bank the party’s hopes on a running-mate position to other parties. We do not know at the moment who will contest at the presidential level since the nomination process has not started,” he said.
Ndanga further clarified that the UDF NEC has powers to terminate the parliamentary relationship between the UDF and DPP as empowered by article 10 (f) of the UDF constitution which reads in part that: “The national conference shall have a right to review, ratify, alter, or rescind any decision taken by any organ or member of the party.
“This means that a decision that NEC has made or will be made in future regarding the working relationship with other parties would be ratified or overturned by the national conference.”
He said the convention agenda will be guided by article 10 (h) of the party constitution which says that the party shall hold at least one national conference every six years to receive and consider the president’s, secretary general’s report, treasurer general’s report and to elect members of NEC and other office bearers of the party.
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila told our sister newspaper The Nation that the party’s position on the relationship with UDF has not changed saying: “There have not been any new development and that DPP position was that the party was not in a coalition with UDF.”
UDF, former ruling party, is currently struggling to establish a foothold in the country since former president Bingu wa Mutharika ditched the party in 2005 to form DPP.