TM Party, the second biggest party in the nine-member governing Tonse Alliance after the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), is tight-lipped on who will lead the political partnership during the 2025 Presidential Election.
This is coming after a growing number of senior MCP officials look resolute to make the party go solo in the 2025 elections, thereby contravening what UTM Party leader Saulos Chilima told a Tonse Alliance mega rally at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre, prior to the court-sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election in 2020, about the alliance’s leadership beyond 2025.
Chilima said at the rally that they had agreed as Tonse Alliance members that MCP president Lazarus Chakwera would lead first (2020 to 2025) and then pass the batton to him.
“Don’t get worried. When we formed this alliance we agreed that Dr Lazarus Chakwera will be our alliance’s torch-bearer but in future, God willing, I will take the lead going forward while also waiting for other leaders to come after.”
Chakwera did not comment on Chilima’s remarks.
Apart from what Chilima said about presidency rotation, nothing else is known about the Tonse Alliance agreement, whose signing ceremony was attended by People’s Party (PP) president Joyce Banda, as the leaders have not made their agreement public.
But since the start of the year, Chakwera has picked up a string of endorsements from his party’s senior leaders, including Second Vice-President Harry Mkandawire and Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani-Hara, who is also MCP’s first deputy secretary general.
And on Tuesday this week, the party’s district chairpersons called for a meeting to discuss, among others, the possibility of going solo during the 2025 polls. The meeting was, however, postponed to a later date.
When Weekend Nation sought their views on the MCP overtures, both UTM and PP were reluctant to state their positions on the issue.
“As UTM, we have no comment to make on this matter at the moment,” said the party’s spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo.
On his part, while describing the goings-on in MCP as “internal issues”, PP spokesperson Ackson Kalaile Banda also said: “It’s very difficult to comment on that.”
However, Banda said: “The terms and conditions of the Tonse Alliance were agreed upon for the 2020 Presidential Election so, as it stands, it’s a very difficult [arrangement] because no political party knows what happens to the alliance beyond 2025.
“We have not reached 2025 yet and in between there might be new arrangements within particular political parties based on several factors.”
The PP spokesperson also disclosed that his party’s national executive committee was yet to convene to discuss the direction some senior MCP members have taken.
MCP spokesperson Reverend Maurice Munthali, commenting on the issue in an earlier interview, said members were free to express their views, opinions an tastes as provided for in the country’s Constitution.
He said: “Such freedoms are healthy as any attempt to gag the same will only be negating the very tenets of the governance system in Malawi chose.”
In justifying the endorsements, Munthali said the members were only dreaming about the 2025 elections and not about the existing Tonse Alliance.
A member of the Tonse Alliance, Kamuzu Chibambo, who is president of People’s Transformation Party (Petra), described Chakwera’s endorsements as premature, adding that such tendencies were a manifestation of failure to understand alliance dynamics.
He urged Chakwera to not be drawn into such hysteria, but concentrate on governing and addressing the socioeconomic challenges such as high unemployment rate, corruption, foreign exchange drought, shortage of essential drugs and high food prices the country is facing.
But political analyst George Phiri observed that going by what Chilima told Malawians about their agreement on presidency rotating, the happenings in MCP have potential to destructively impact on the Tonse Alliance.
“If they [Alliance members] indeed agreed that their alliance will go beyond 2025 and Chilima will have to take over, then UTM and PP need to speak against what is happening in MCP because that is not in line with their agreement.
“But if there is no such agreement as claimed by Banda, then UTM and PP have nothing to do with the MCP endorsements because that is internal politics and they should also start strategising on how they would want to approach the 2025 General Elections,” he explained.
Other political and governance experts have warned MCP in earlier interviews with Weekend Nation to tread carefully because, as it stands, the party has little chance of winning the 2025 elections if it goes alone, given the 50 percent-plus-one electoral system in place for electing the President, coupled with the economic problems hurting the electorate.
They have also hinted it was time the youthful UTM leader should be scratching his head for being sold a dummy by MCP and Chakwera, who has since not said anything on his endorsement by his party members.
PP, whose leader is former president Joyce Banda and UTM, which is led by the incumbent Vice-President Chilima, are the other two largest political parties forming the Tonse Alliance.
MCP and UTM Party share most Cabinet positions and other senior public posts such as heads of parastatals, board of directors and diplomatic appointments.
Other political parties that have representation in the Tonse Alliance administration’s 32-member Cabinet are PP and People’s Progressive Movement.
The other five parties are the Alliance for Democracy, Malawi Forum for Unity and Development, Umodzi Party, Petra and Freedom Party. n