Since the dawn of multiparty democracy in this country, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) took up the position of main opposition party and it has been there since.
The party has always been the nearest loser in each and every election, and putting it more bluntly MCP has never tested government in the multiparty era.
The closest the party came to winning an election was on May 21 last year all thanks to one Mohamad Sidik Mia. Were it not for the suspected rigging by DPP aided by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Reverend Dr. Lazarus Chakwera would have been President by now with Sidik Mia as Vice President of the Republic.
Under its previous leaders like Gwanda Chakuamba and John Tembo, MCP was generally a party shackled in the central region of the country.
Its attempts to make in-roads into other regions of the country did not succeed owing mainly to consistent internal bickering and failure by its leadership to rebrand the party and rope in influential politicians from other regions; and to make the party attractive to the youths.
When John Tembo retired and MCP started on the momentous rebranding process under the leadership of Lazarus Chakwera, the party quickly roped in the Lower Shire gladiator, Muhammad Sidik Mia. It was a clever move. Mia is a seasoned and influential politician and businessman who is respected in the Lower Shire districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje. In that part of the country what he says is what people basically do.
On top of that, his Islamic background and philanthropic work has endeared him with fellow Muslims in the country over the years and extended his political influence in the eastern region districts of Zomba, Machinga Mangochi and Balaka.
Mia has also been a powerful force in terms of mobilizing funds for MCP in the last campaign period, which was an area the party was also furiously lacking in previous campaigns.
In short and without mincing words Sidik Mia has been a single factor which has given MCP the essential push and leverage it needed to shed off the ‘central region only political party’ tag.
Mia’s relevance even under the rapidly twisting political circumstances is even more critical to MCP now more than at any point in its political history.
However, politics has a habit of throwing something g at you when you least expected. In its judgement of February 3, the High Court sitting as Constitutional Court interpreted the definition of majority in presidential elections as 50+1. Meaning whoever wins in subsequent elections in this country must at least get 50+1 % of the total valid votes cast.
We now know the impact this judgement has made on parliament, and most profoundly on political parties in the country. What it means is that parties must quickly negotiate alliances with other political parties in order to enhance their chances of getting 50+1 % of the vote in the first round to avoid a run-off. And news coming from Parliament is that the house has set May 19 this year as the date to hold fresh presidential election in keeping with the Constitutional Court ruling.
This has only put even more pressure on MCP, DPP, UTM and other political parties to quickly cobble alliances to win the election.
Too much has already happened about alliances. We saw UDF President, Atupele Muluzi, shaking hands and stealing a photo opportunity with MCP President, Lazarus Chakwera accompanied by some ‘coalition’ talk; before we knew it we heard Atupele has crossed over and struck a deal with DPP to work with President Peter Mutharika.
Now one alliance which has materialised is the DPP-UDF; sealed.
However, MCP need to tread more carefully on these alliances because the party risks throwing itself back into that familiar story of ‘so near and yet so far’ in the name of crafting an alliance as a winning formula.
The party did not lose the last election (and all evidence plus the constitutional Court ruling point to this fact); the reason why it is not in government is because DPP conspired with MEC to steal the botched May 2019 election for Mutharika. It is that simple.
The next two months can flip the whole fortunes for MCP if it succumbs to pressure from armchair political analysts to go into unholy political alliances with strange bedfellows whose ideologies are profoundly different from what the party stands for.
Whilst we are on that point, a group calling itself ‘Association of Experienced politicians’ has sprang out urging political parties not to go into alliances because alliances will kill the spirit of multiparty democracy which we adopted over 25 years ago and cherish. These are elders with practical experience of politics having been MPs before; they have a much deeper insight of how people in constituencies behave and their varied motivations. It is thus incumbent upon MCP to borrow from their unfretted wisdom to desist alliances of convenience devoid of any ideological meaning.
The story and value of Sidik Mia to MCP is deep and far reaching, and is worth a hundred times more than any shallow alternatives.
This is the reason why the party has to be strategic in the way it approaches the forthcoming elections in terms of decisions that would change is structural leadership composition.
Mia is the single factor that has attracted the lower Shire (with over 400,000 registered voters) to MCP, and given the party access to close to 800,000 registered Muslim voters in the eastern region. If MCP wants to start trials with voters with just two months to voting, don’t say we didn’t warn you.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :