- Thorny issues: Name, symbol, manifestos
It has been seven weeks since Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) sealed an electoral alliance deal.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM also entered into an electoral alliance fortnight ago. The four parties together amassed over 95 percent of the votes in the annulled May 21 2019 presidential poll.
But with two weeks before submission of nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), the two alliance groups have kept a tight lid on their torch-bearers and runningmates.
While there is certainty that President Peter Mutharika will lead the DPP/UDF electoral alliance since he was the declared winner of the nullified election and is defending his second-term tenure, it is not so clear with the MCP/UTM alliance.
The two camps are also mum on the substance of their alliances, although the DPP/UDF partnership has already started bearing fruit after Mutharika appointed four UDF members into his bloated 31-member Cabinet.
Political commentators have previously said some of the thorny issues during negotiations for electoral alliances are likely to be the name of the alliance, symbol, how to merge the allies’ manifestos and power sharing arrangement.
While political analysts have said the secretive approach by the alliances is expected, the parties involved have said they are not working against any deadline; hence, at an appropriate time they will unveil their candidates.
MEC launched the calendar for the presidential election on March 23 and the candidates are expected to submit their nomination papers on April 23 and 24.
According to the draft timeline of the major events, the official campaign will start on May 22 and end on June 30 2020. Other activities are:
- May 3 to June 1 2020—Printing of ballot papers and results sheets outside the country.
- May 3 to May 22—Recruitment of polling staff.
- June 18 to 19—Inspection of voters register.
- June 22—Last day for submission of names of monitors for polling.
- June 29 to 30—Delivery of ballot papers and other sensitive materials from the airport to constituency nerve centres via councils.
- July 1—Opening and checking of polling materials, including ballot papers and training of polling staff.
- July 10—Determination and announcement of results by the commission.
While attention is on the two alliances, so far three contenders have reportedly collected the forms, with Mbakuwaku Movement for Development (MMD) president Peter Dominico Kuwani being the only known aspirant to have paid the K2 million nomination fees.
MCP spokesperson Reverend Maurice Munthali said in an interview, the delay to make details of the alliances public was one of the strategies, but they were not desperate to do so “because nobody gave us time limit as to when we should announce”.
“So, why does it seem to be a fire-fighting exercise? We are working against no deadline. The issue of our candidate and his runningmate will be sorted out within a few days.
“People were not saying whether [MCP leader] Lazarus Chakwera or [UTM leader] Saulos Chilima should lead the alliance, but they wanted us to work together and that is exactly what we are doing. The issue of who will be the candidate is minor,” he said.
On his part, UTM spokesperson Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said an appropriate time will come when the two parties will publicly share the document that outlines the deal.
He said: “The nation will know. Give us time; it’s not too long from now that all the details people want to know will be laid bare. But right now the issue is not who will be the leader, but the issue is we are in an alliance.”
However, two sources—one from MCP and another from UTM—who are close to the alliance dialogue team confided in Weekend Nation that the two leaders have agreed that Chakwera will be the torch-bearer while Chilima will be the runningmate.
This is also the thinking of Chancellor College political analyst Happy Kayuni, who said in an interview on Thursday Chakwera will likely lead the alliance in the poll because of the popularity of his party over UTM, which Chilima formed in 2018.
“But once voted into government, the two have agreed that Chilima will be made head of the Public Service, with a full job description. Besides, the two parties will have equal share of appointments for Cabinet ministers, diplomatic and parastatal organisations,” said one of the sources.
But Malunga described the arrangement as mere “people talk”, insisting that so far nobody has full information on the essential substance of the agreement.
Munthali also said it was too early to begin sharing positions before getting into government and “we will talk about positions when we get there”.
UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo also said all the discussions surrounding their alliance with DPP were on schedule.
“For instance, we are already working together in joint working committees in all key areas on the basis of the alliance. So, we can say the alliance is going on well but all the details will be told to the public soon,” he said.