Intended UDF, DPP alliance in limbo over leadership wrangle

A serious leadership wrangle promises to halt efforts on the constitution of an electoral alliance between the opposition Democratic Progress Party (DPP) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) with the view of winning the May 2014 tripartite elections.

A ‘Preliminary Report’ of the meeting between the two parties held on November 16, 2013 in Blantyre , which Nyasa Times has seen, the two opposition parties are stuck on who would lead such an electoral alliance.

UDF President, Atupele Muluzi, has appointed a three member ‘taskforce’ to discuss possible electoral alliance with the DPP upon DPP’s “request for such talks”.

The team comprises Chief Whip in Parliament, Dr. Clement Chiwaya as Chairman, former Reserve bank Governor, Victor Mbewe and another parliamentarian, Abubaker Mbaya.

Mutharika (L) and Muluzi: Who would lead the alliance?

The DPP has on the team DPP Chief Whip in Parliament, Henry Mussa as Chairman, Mwanza legislator, Nicholas Dausi and Ben Phiri, ‘Special Assistant’ to DPP President, Professor Peter Mutharika.

“The general consensus of the two teams is that there is a need to form an alliance or coalition since there is no indication of a clear winner in these elections. The two teams are also cognisant of the time constraint considering that nominations of candidates are slated in January according to the electoral calendar hence the need for expediting the talks. The two teams are also in agreement that there is a need to be sincere, honest and maintain secrecy in these discussions,” reads the ‘Preliminary Report’.

The two teams agreed that “the whole alliance issue hinges on the presidential candidate”, which they should prioritize in the discussions, and that other issues could be discussed “once this cardinal issue is agreed upon”.

In that regard, the UDF team is said to have proposed the name of their leader, 35-year-old Muluzi to head the alliance.

They argued that they would not be comfortable with  74-year-old Professor Mutharika considering that in 2005, the DPP was formed as a result of late President Bingu wa Mutharika ditching the UDF.

Despite the UDF campaigning extremely hard for Mutharika in the run-up to the 2004 elections, the late President proceeded to harass the UDF membership, including its leadership, the UDF recalled.

“Many lost their jobs and others were arrested on tramped-up charges. The idea was to eliminate UDF on the political scene. It is therefore the feeling of the UDF leadership that should we support DPP candidate, our general membership would not accept it and many will be disillusioned and vote for Mrs. Joyce Banda (the State President). It is therefore UDF’s wish to see DPP reciprocate and support UDF as a principal in the electoral alliance,” reads the ‘Preliminary Report’ in part.

The UDF argued that since the DPP’s “immediate past is tainted”, it would be difficult to campaign and portray DPP in the best limelight. This to UDF is a minus hence the need for UDF to lead, they said.

According to the report, the UDF reminded the DPP that their President, Professor Mutharika is answering a number of criminal charges in court and that since nominations of candidate will be in January, there is a danger of conviction that could bar him from contesting.

On the other hand, the UDF said, court appearances and accompanying media coverage could be a distraction for someone seeking High Office.

“The UDF is therefore very worried that making Right honourable Mutharika a leading principal would result in going into the elections without a candidate,” it reads.

However, the DPP countered that they are the biggest party in the country with representation in 26 districts and that they have more MPs and therefore they deserve to lead the alliance.

The DPP shot down the ‘Bingu wa Mutharika’ scenario, describing it a “personal issue between the former Head of State (Bakili Muluzi) and the late President.

“Peter Mutharika is a different person altogether with a different personality who will not pursue vengeance as a policy,” the DPP argued.

On the court cases, the DPP hoped that it is unlikely that they could be concluded before the elections and that Professor will not be barred from contesting.

In a phone-in programme on a possible electoral alliance aired on Galaxy FM on Wednesday, a majority of the listeners, apparently DPP supporters, said Mutharika, could triumph single-handedly.

However, some political analysts feel that phone-in programme was staged by some elements in the DPP who feel the alliance between the two parties could affect the political prospects, ambitions and careers. Galaxy FM belongs to the Mutharika family.

“Some elements may not be happy with an alliance because it means, for example, they will have to share positions, responsibilities and resources. These may affect those that already hold positions or control resources in the two parties.

“Naturally, therefore, such people will work against such a proposed alliance,” said one observer.

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