JB in front, survey tips tight race for LoP post

President Joyce Banda has topped an opinion poll survey Nyasa Times Media conducted through its correspondents in face-to-face interviews with sampled registered voters and also an online voting poll.

The poll interview surveyed more than 60,000 people throughout the country and  majority of them put the incumbent Head of State ahead of Lazarous Chakwera of MCP, Atupele Muluzi of UDF and DPP’s Peter Mutharika. The composition of those surveyed was a third apiece for men, women and youth.

Banda has a slender lead while the opposition candidates were neck-and-neck in what would be described as a tough race on who would be Leader of Opposition (LoP).

In the online survey polled by 79,030, Banda led by 30 percent while Chakwera follows closely with 29 percent. Youthful Atupele Muluzi got 22 percent and Mutharika had 19 percent with a sampling error of 2 percent.

President Banda: I might just win by landslide, let us wait and see

President Banda: I might just win by landslide, let us wait and see

POLL WATCH

Malawi elections are won on first-past-the-post basis. One can claim the presidency even with one vote advantage.

Recently, President Banda was also tipped by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an influential Britain-based economic think-tank, to win the elections

The EIU forecast for Malawi ahead of the May 20 Tripartite Elections also predicted a tight contest.

EIU said the Joyce Banda administration has been severely bruised and weakened by a large corruption scandal dubbed Cashgate that has seen billions on taxpayers’ money looted from 2005 when DPP was in power but nevertheless concludes that she will “secure” the people’s mandate.

“Yet, helped by a crackdown on graft, a split opposition, and the benefits of incumbency, we expect Mrs. Banda and her People’s Party to secure another mandate,” said the EIU in a country brief for January 2014.

A recent forensic audit report done by a British firm, Baker Tilly, revealed that about K13 billion (about $32.5m) had been lost in the worst financial scandal to hit Capital Hill in recent times.

The Cashgate compelled the country’s donors under the Common Approach to Budget Support (Cabs) to withhold about $150 million in November 2013. The grouping is expected to meet this month to review their decision.

Political analyst Augustine Magolowondo broadly agrees with EIU assessment, explaining that scandal may indeed take away some votes from the ruling party, “particularly from those who think the administration may not have done a lot or enough in the handling of the scandal.”

But he emphasizes that many other factors will also be under consideration and that Cashgate may have relatively little effect on the vote overall.

Meanwhile, Ken Msonda, deputy spokesperson for the People’s Party (PP), argues the scandal will actually be a vote-winner for Banda.

“If anything, the Cashgate scandal has increased the faith that Malawians have in the President because of her exceptional boldness in dealing with the vice,” he insists.

“This issue of plundering public resources started way back [before the PP came to power] and there was no political will [to tackle the problem] from the administrations before us,” Msonda added.

Most analysts agree the incumbent holds the advantage in the upcoming ballot.

Malawi is expected to hold tripartite elections on May 20 and 7.5 million voters are expected to choose the President, parliamentarians and councillors. 12 presidential candidates are expected to contest the polls.

However, the major contest has been narrowed down to four presidential candidates whose parties were represented in Parliament.

They are Muluzi for the opposition United Democratic Front, Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party, Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party and President Banda of the ruling People’s party.

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