UTM director of Elections Paul Chibingu on Friday admitted that the party’s first ever primary elections planned to be heard in one day were characterised by logistical and coordination challenges which resulted in postponing elections in some areas election.
He, however, said lessons have been learnt and that if UTM was to conduct the nationwide elections in a single day again, the party would ensure that proper homework has been done, party structures are in place and aspirants know what they are doing.
UTM on Friday went into the second day of voting in some parts of the country where elections did not take place on the first day due to different reasons. The party will also engage various aspirants and groups to resolve disputes in constituencies where there were differences.
The most regrettable incident, Chibingu said, was an incident that happened in Rumphi Central constituency where a presiding officer was beaten up by followers of one of the aspirants to the point of being rushed to the hospital.
As we went to press on Friday Chibingu said the party had only received results from 87 constituencies.
Chibingu said the main challenge UTM faced was that most of the party’s aspirants are new in politics and do not know what politics is all about.
“Most aspirants thought because they were the first to introduce UTM in an area, then they would go unopposed or that the party would shield them,” he said.
Chibingu said aspirants with strong financial muscle or those who felt they were the first to introduce the party in an area were creating area committees which was the responsibility of constituency governors.
“Most of the area committees were created by aspirants themselves and those who had money were servicing the area committees; this gave other aspirants an advantage. As a party, we wanted all aspirants to have equal opportunity,” he said.
He said most areas in the Eastern Region did not conduct primary elections due to logistical problems.
“We are visiting individual constituencies that had problems to iron out the differences among the aspirants and their supporters,” he said.
Apart from cancelling the primaries in Mchinji, Dowa and Salima districts, the party also did not hold the polls in Mulanje Central, Thyolo North, Lilongwe City South, Ntcheu Central, Rumphi Central and Ntcheu Bwanje because of disagreements over the composition of electoral colleges.
Meanwhile, most of the party’s senior National Executive Committee officials were elected unopposed, mirroring what happened at the party’s convention on December 23 indaba where almost half of the party’s senior party politburo positions, including that of the president and secretary general were elected unopposed.
Some of the key UTM members who were elected unopposed are former national chairman Noel Masangwi who is standing in Zomba Central constituency and the party’s secretary general Patricia Kaliati to represent the party in Mulanje West constituency.
Chiradzulu North incumbent lawmaker Willet Kalonga who is UTM Party deputy organising secretary and the party’s campaign director and parliamentarian for Balaka North constituency, Lucius Banda, were also elected unopposed. Banda won the constituency in 2014 under the United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket while Kalonga won as an independent candidate.
In Blantyre South West constituency former UTM treasurer Richard Makondi also went unopposed while in Nsanje South West Constituency incumbent MP Joseph Chidanti Malunga also went unopposed.
Others who went unopposed are Mzimba North East incumbent legislator Olipa Chiluba Muyaba and candidates for Karonga Central and Chitipa Central Constituencies—Lawrence Nthakomwa and Dr. Moses Mlenga—respectively.
In Blantyre Rural East former Cabinet minister Henry Phoya won against Adamson Matemba, Lucius Chanika and Sambalikagwa Mvona. In Lilongwe City West constituency former first lady Callista Mutharika trounced Clement Ndala.
Some of the losers have threatened to quit the party or contest as independent parliamentary candidates.
Once such person is Allan Ngumuya who said he will stand as an independent in the May 19 tripartite elections if the party will not hold a rerun in his constituency.
Biggles Katenga-Kaunda who lost primary elections to the party regional governor for the south Steve Mikaya and Lucius Chanika who lost to Phoya also said they will contest as an independent candidates.
Commenting on the controversies in the UTM primary elections, Chancellor College political analyst Mustafa Hussein said UTM could have learnt from controversies from other political parties such as the DPP and MCP.
Political commentator Humphreys Mvula on a positive note said it was a big achievement for UTM which is new on the political scene to hold primary elections.