Malawi 2014 presidential contest, know your candidate

With constitutional reform introducing multi-party democracy in the early 1990s, Malawi switched from a Parliamentary to a Presidential system and now the 5thPresidential and Parliamentary elections are to be held on 20th May 2014. However, in 2014 it will be a tripartite election race.

The tripartite elections shall see the electoral body conducting Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections at the same time. This will be the first time in the history of the country that ballots would be cast for three different electoral offices.

Candidates across the country will be competing for a seat in parliament while others will be fighting to represent their various wards as councillors. Some individuals will be competing for a chance to govern the country. So far four parties, ruling People’s Party (PP), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have announced their presidential candidates.

The Timau Crew will now highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of these four Presidential candidates.

MCP presidential hopeful Chakwera

MCP presidential hopeful Chakwera

Joyce Banda.

She is the current president. Upon Bingu wa Mutharika’s death and according to the constitutional norm, ascended to power on April 7, 2012.

During Mutharika presidency, Malawi was left in a poor economic situation partly due to poor foreign relations. By 2012, Britain, the United States, Germany, Norway, the European Union, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank had all suspended financial aid. They had expressed concern about Mutharika’s attacks on democracy and his increasingly erratic policies. Joyce Banda has overturned most of the policies and donor aid is flowing once more.

Strengths

  • She started her political career in the civil society, advocating and supporting the cause of women entrepreneurs’. This alone gives her an edge over other aspirants as she is considered a grass roots politician.
  • One of the biggest advantage that President Banda has is incumbency. Entire government machinery including the public broadcaster is at her disposal
  • Joyce Banda has won the sympathy of the international community hence she is enjoying massive international support and this has boosted her psychological confidence over other candidates.

Weaknesses

  • Joyce Banda has surrounded herself with people who are corrupt and sycophants. The Malawian voters know that these people are not there to develop the country but for their pockets hence this can cost her votes.
  • Is she running the country? Is someone pulling the strings behind her? Malawian people are now fully awake and unless she shows them that she is in charge, voters will treat her words with scepticism.
  • Her persistence refusal to adhere to basic constitutional practices such as declaring her assets will not go down well with the electorate.
  • Her style of governance closely resembles that of a dictator rather than of a democratically elected leader.
  • Her donor base; which is comprised of mostly foreign institutions raises questions over her ability to govern in the best interest of the country and not be influenced by foreign powers.

Solution

Joyce Banda should have more people like Sosten Gwengwe around her. This will not only change her image but change her way of thinking too. The old school politicians she has in her closed circle would only harm her prospects in the general elections.  She should be more humble and aware of her responsibility towards people of Malawi and respect and honour the democratic institutions.

Peter Mutharika

Peter nonchalantly served as an advisor to President Bingu wa Mutharika in issues of foreign and domestic policy. He has also held positions as Minister of Justice, Education, Science and Technology and Foreign Affairs.

Mutharika has taught at University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Haile Selassie University (Ethiopia), Rutgers University (USA), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research Program for Foreign Service Officers from Africa and Asia at Makerere University (Uganda), and Washington University (USA), and has served as an Academic Visitor at the London School of Economics. (UK)

He served as advisor to the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law initiative for Africa. He was also the chair of the Institute for Democracy and Policy Studies.

Strengths

  • His biggest strength is that he is the most educated amongst all the candidates.  Wikipedia describes him as a politician, author, educator, lawyer, advisor and consultant, and states that he has worked in the area of international justice. He is an expert on international economic law, international law and comparative constitutional law. If all this can be marketed well to the Malawian populace, he can bring more confidence to Malawians than other contenders.
  • Unlike the other three, he is himself a good strategist and he is held in high regards for the vigorous 2009 DPP campaign.
  • He is known to have a powerful team of strategists.

Weaknesses

  • He is not a very impressive public speaker.
  • His brother, late Bingu Wa-Mutharika, left a negative legacy that has dented the Mutharika brand.  He needs a dynamic marketing team to rebrand the Mutharika name.
  • His performance as a minister particularly at Justice and Education left much to be desired and this can give his opponents room for attacks.
  • His frequent mentioning of continuing where his brother left is a major weakness considering the fact that his brother did not fair quite well during his last years of governing the country.
  • He needs to be clear on his citizenship status. Does he owe allegiance to United States or not.

Solutions

His first assignment is to rebrand the Mutharika name. He should not live in denial but accept that things were bad. Convince voters that he is his own person and very different from his brother. Peter Mutharika should come in the open with his new strategy, clearly articulating the development projects he wants to introduce in the country. Stop reference of what his brother did.

Atupele Muluzi

Atupele is a politician and a member of parliament for Machinga North-East for UDF. He was first elected to parliament in 2004 and is currently serving his second term. He is campaigning on an agenda for change. He became minister of Economic Planning and Development in 2012 under the Joyce Banda administration and later resigned. He was later elected President of the UDF.

He attended Saint Andrews School in Malawi and Bentham Grammar School in Yorkshire, England where he became its head boy. He is a graduate of the University of Leicester, United Kingdom in Economics and Law, and the College of Law in London.

Strengths

  • The world is crying for youthful leaders. Muluzi is 35, making him the youngest presidential aspirant Malawi has ever had. With over 40% of Malawi’s voters being youth, with a good agenda, Atupele can easily sweep the day.
  • He is calm, cool and collected and these qualities make him look mature.
  • His other strength is that he has got no political scars his competitors can use against him.   “The truth is we have tried the old-style leaders and we all know the result. Somebody suggested that it’s a sign of madness to keep trying the same “solutions” and expect a different result. Happily Malawians show signs that they are ready for a different approach”. Writes Ambuje Che Tom Likambale a Nyasa Times columnist on Atupele in his article, “A candidate is born”.

Weaknesses

  • People see him as part of dynastic politics and his father and former President of Malawi Bakili Muluzi’s hands behind his sudden rise.
  • His lack of experience in running big institutions gives his enemies room for attack
  • He needs to give specifics to his agenda for change.  

 

Solutions

Atupele like Peter has to prove to Malawians that he is his own person. Atupele has to show Malawians that to be a leader you do not have to be a politician for 31 years. Atupele has to articulate his agenda for change clearly to Malawians.

Dr Lazarus Chakwera

Can a Man of God serve his country and God? If there is no conflict between the two then of course he can. But if there is conflict he must choose.

Chakwera’s interest in politics became known to Malawians on 9 April, 2013.

He has worked as an instructor at the Assemblies of God School of theology and later became principal. He has been the co-director and lecturer at all nations theological seminary.

Since 1989 to date Lazarus Chakwera has been at the rudder of Malawi Assemblies of God Presidency.

The Trinity International University, in Deerfield, IIIinois, USA awarded him a Doctorate (D. Min) in the year 2000. He holds a BA (philosophy) degree from University of Malawi and a Masters (MTh) from the University of South Africa.

Strengths

  • Chakwera is a new boy in the political arena. Not even Uladi Mussa’s (Peoples Party opposition Character assassinator) micro-scope can find any political dent in him. His strength is that he is coming into Malawi politics as a clean man a thing all Malawians have been waiting for.
  • Being a pastor, he comes with him into politics many votes from Christians.
  • He is an influential public speaker.

Weaknesses

  • Running government is serious business said Bakili Muluzi former president of Malawi. There is a different in looking after the flock of the lord and governing people. Has Chakwera has the nudge to govern Malawi?
  • He has never held any political or government position a thing which makes him more of a learner than a leader.
  • A true man of God does not concern himself with borders or nationalities. Is Chakwera trying to seek earthly glory? He should expect attacks on this from his opponents.
  • More often than not men of God have not made good leaders taking into account the recent chaos in Egypt where the Moselm brothers failed to govern Egypt.

Solutions

Using his excellent public speaking, Lazarus Chakwera should tell the Malawian people why he decided to abandon the pulpit and join politics.

He should do some homework and convince Malawians that he is not the first man of God to go into politics. He can use his victory at the MCP convention where there were 9 candidates and he had a landslide victory as his charismatic strength.

Malawians take heed

At the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther articulated a doctrine of the two kingdoms. Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms marked the beginning of the modern concept of separation of church and state.

The concept of separating church and state during the beginning of the age of enlightenment is often credited to the writings of the English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704).According to his principle of the social contract, Locke argued that the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience, as this was something rational people could not cede to the government for it or others to control. For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he argued must therefore remain protected from any government authority. These views on religious tolerance and the importance of individual conscience, along with his social contract, became particularly influential the drafting of the United States Constitution.

The other side of this coin was the realisation and development of political philosophy inthe 17th century that recognised that faith was independent of reason.Voltaire went further to ultimately subordinate the Church to the needs of the Statewhile Denis  Diderot, was a partisan of a strict separation of Church and State, saying the distance between the throne and the altar can never be too great“.

Presidential candidates: From left to right – Joyce Banda, Peter Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi

Presidential candidates: From left to right – Joyce Banda, Peter Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi

The social experimentation between church (religion) and state has continued to the present day.  The results are clear and show that that there is no successful modern state that exists today which has not relegated religion to the question the individual choice.  Those that have not have moved or drifting to medieval past.  This regression is exemplified with hand chopping and decapitations in religious Islamic world.  The Christians are no better with the Catholic Church having been the de facto ruler of the known world. Thought and progress were firmly held back with Galileo being held in prison for daring to express the thought that earth was not the centre of the universe and that the sun did not go round the earth.  Had thought not been held back for those many hundreds of year, who knows, perhaps man could have flown earlier, perhaps modern medicine would have advanced and progressed earlier and further.  

Here then is the question.  When military generals have changed their fatigues into suits and called themselves democrat, they have failed. Is Lazarus Chakwera able to transform himself from a man of the cloth into a secular president who’d be required to transcend the pulpit and engage in the business of managing affairs of the state?  The principal demand that the job asks of the holder of that office is to divorce the church from affairs of the state and confine it to one small corner in one mind where private thoughts are filed.  Is he ready or capable of that transformation?
Elections

Elections give people a chance to make decisions about how their country is run. Holding free and fair elections is the most important ingredient in making any country a successful democracy.

 

To get votes, candidates will campaign throughout the country. They have announced a set of policies they say, would guide them when making decisions if they were to be elected. In the past people did not leave up to their words. Malawians hope 2014 will be a year of a new dawn. . A vote for a political party is also a vote for that party’s guiding principles.

Conclusion

For the first time, 2014 looks like a year Malawians will choose a leader of their choice. The major parties have done conventions where leaders were elected. It is the sincere hope of all Malawians that the Joyce Banda administration will not meddle with their competitors through arrests or faking up charges so that they weaken the opposition.

Whoever is elected must recognise that in a democratic setup, will of the people is supreme and elected representatives are there to implement the mandate that they have been given by the people. They are to serve them and not to rule over them. And they should always be aware of that.

Let that be their guiding principle in service of the people of Malawi. God bless Malawi!

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The author: Sembe Gondwe BA (Hons) MBA, Research work (political Branding)

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