The next few weeks will be characterized by a lot of political action – systematic arrests, deliberate falsehoods and rumors of possible alliances. However, like in a game of cards, each player will keep his or her deck of cards closer to their chest, at least until the elections case verdict is pronounced.
As the nation awaits the presidential elections case verdict due sometime later this month or early next month with abated breath, there is already political banter, rumor mongering and plots for political connivance are making rounds.
While the ruling DPP has organized a number of political meetings across the country ahead of the court ruling, a rumor is rife on the potential electoral alliance between the UTM and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), should there be a re-run vote.
In the world of politics, anything is possible. It’s even possible for a rumor to turn into truth!
But whether it happens or not, wouldn’t it be nice to understand the political connotations of such an alleged alliance? In politics, any such decision will likely be to the detriment of another politician, usually on either side of the political divide.
The truth of the matter is that buoyed by incumbency, President Peter Mutharika and his DPP would not be easy to depose at the ballot if challenged by a fragmented majority opposition. This is simple arithmetic.
But with an MCP-UTM alliance, Mutharika surely might decide not to take part in the repeat vote just to protect his political legacy. In that case, his odds will surely be next to none.
I have talked to a number of senior people both in MCP and UTM. Surprisingly, they say this matter has not been brought to the table by the leadership. Both sides say it might be a desire among some supporters. For now, the official narrative on both sides is that they are waiting for the court verdict.
As a media practitioner, I am used to such kind of responses; the wait-and-see type of responses. My suspicions are that if at all people are out producing “campaign materials for an alliance” bearing party insignia without condemnation of abuse of branding and party emblems, under the veil of secrecy, the politicians might as well be celebrating.
Would it be sensational to assume there seem to be an indication of some subtle agreement to the merging narrative as a result of unauthorized use of party branding for such an endeavor?
As obvious as it is, the purported alliance would establish a formidable political advantage for the UTM and MCP with greater potential to dilute the power and influence of their common enemy, the DPP. Based on the disputed vote statistics, the MCP-UTM alliance would surely claim a lion’s share of the votes!
New Synergies, New Battles
In all honesty, an alliance between the MCP and UTM cannot be without damage!
Any attempt to form such an alliance would mean new intraparty conflicts on either side, some of which could be irreparable.
For example, by deconstructing the Lazarus Chakwera – Sidik Mia union and the Saulosi Chilima – Michael Usi team, how does it affect the group dynamics?
Would SKC, as Chilima is fondly known, accept to play second fiddle to Chakwera?
I have argued before. The fact that the MCP constitution bars Chakwera from continuing for another term (should he fail to make it in the event of a probable court determined election) implies that his political future is nearing its end, at least unless the MCP amends its constitution or if he is elected at the probable elections now at the mercy of the courts.
The arrangement of an ad hoc alliance pits Chakwera against his next in command, Mia, from a succession point of view. What position would Mia get should there be a re-run election in which his face will not be featured on the ballot paper?
Evidently, in any event, an alliance between Chilima and Chakwera would impose considerable disadvantage to Mia. It vitiates his chances to take over the mantle from Chakwera as expected in a normal succession transition.
However, Chakwera is indisputably a strong candidate to take on Mutharika: much more stronger with Chilima. But then, should Mia’s influence be ignored with regard to the party’s numerical strength? Is Mia interested in playing third fiddle?
In any case, Chilima, Mia and a politically stealth Usi will probably be losers of the possible UTM-MCP Alliance; and Mutharika would be the biggest loser!
Like I have argued before, Chilima is better off with Mutharika continuing until 2024. This is likely if all three contestants went to the polls separately together, should there be a re-run. I have argued before, Chilima will be, all things being equal, the only competitive candidate from the 2019 polls to contest. Mutharika and Chakwera will not be part of the equation. The former is barred by the Republican Constitution while the latter is hindered by his party’s constitution.
Chakwera, on the other hand, is the biggest winner.
By dropping Mia on the second spot, Chakwera will breathe life into his weakening political lifespan.
It is a sad fact that proponents of an alliance should consider that Chakwera’s political future depends on annihilating Mia’s opportunities for progression.
For Mia, it will be a double blow: he loses the second spot and his chances to take over MCP in 2024 (which is highly likely if the DPP is to maintain governing the country: based on court ruling of upholding Mutharika’s election or based on no alliance).
For Chilima, this is also a gamble. He has a far much better chance to win against a DPP without Mutharika and an MCP without Chakwera in 2024. Since entering into an alliance with the MCP will breathe life into Chakwera’s political life, the UTM would expect to face a stronger Chakwera in 2024.
In that situation, Chilima would rather hope to contest in 2028! Chakwera with incumbency on his side will be untouchable, politically speaking!
Another point is that Chilima has been Vice President. Chakwera has never been in government but seems to have the numerical superiority over his colleague. Does prior experience or numerical strength become a determinant on who leads in the event of a coalition? Or it’s a question of I have been in the VP’s office, therefore it’s a promotion or never?
Malawians were told during the demonstrations – in which MCP and UTM participated – that the political problems that are before them are enormous.
To me, it appears the challenges before the opposition politicians are much more enormous. Imagine throwing your friends under the bus?! Imagine, putting your political chances at risk?
Or we now have Malawian politicians who are ready to sacrifice political interests of their stable mates for those of their foes, just to eliminate worst foes.
In my considered view, the alliance is possible. Very much so. But politically, if at all it will happen, it will be to the discomfort of some. This rumored alliance would be more of collapsing some political careers in order to garner considerable might to remove Mutharika.
As I see it, if the opposition will truly decide to gang up against Mutharika in the event of a re-run, rest assured, he won’t go down alone!
Remember the folklore that talks about “Mitsamilo“?
In the folklore, royalty would not be buried until some among the healthy youngsters were identified and buried alongside as “death mates” of the deceased royalty.
Don’t mind me. I am a self-imposed political artist. Art is meant to be enjoyed – sometimes in its mystique form!