Most powerful politician in Malawi this week: Simango’s Thinking Aloud

As far as parliamentary seats are concerned, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is now the biggest party in the house with an unprecedented 74 seats – almost twice what the former majority party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has attained. That, however, does not make its President, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, the most powerful politician in Malawi as of today.

The DPP claims that unofficial vote count indicates that it’s Presidential candidate, Peter Mutharika, has amassed 400,000 votes more than his runner up, Chakwera. Yet, even with numbers like those, Peter is not Malawi’s most powerful politician during this impasse.

People’s Party’s (PP) Joyce Banda may still be on the throne and calling the shots but even she is powerless. The unofficial vote count puts her a distant third and that, coupled with her recent declaration that she would not stand were there to be a re-run of the presidential race, relegates her to a lame-duck president – powerless, impotent.

Atupele Muluzi and Peter Mutharika
Atupele Muluzi and Peter Mutharika

Atupele Muluzi, came fourth in the race with just under half of what Chakwera polled and beaten by a staggering one millon votes by Peter Mutharika on the unofficial vote count. And yet, while he trails on position four, Atupele Muluzi is the most powerful politician of them all during this time of impasse.

Atupele’s unofficial 650,000 votes are too few to enable him make any meaningful claim for the presidency but his votes just happen to be substantial enough to sway the current impasse any which way he chooses to support. Should Atupele chose to support Peter Mutharika, the odds will sharply sway towards Peter emerging triumphant in the current impasse.

The only price Atupele may have to pay for that is to bury his father, former President Bakili Muluzi within days of making that decision: the senior Muluzi may be one of Malawi’s most tolerant politician but it is an open secret that there is no love lost between him and the DPP after they stole the presidency from him in 2004.

Similarly, if Atupele decides that having a living dad is worth more to him than being Peter’s Second Vice Presidency without a dad (which would be the most reasonable demand he would put on the table) then he would go with Chakwera and end up forcing a total recount or indeed a presidential re-run which Chakwera would easily win. I am saying this because I just do not see how PP supporters would vote for Peter so if one adds UDF to the equation, the odds overwhelmingly favour Chakwera.

And that is why Peter needs to do anything within his power to avoid a re-run by convincing Atupele that his father will not die if he supports DPP. Peter may then have to offer more than the Second Vice Presidency to get the young man on board. But the bottom line is that whichever way this political impasse may move, my take is that it hinge on Atupele’s decision – whichever that may be.

So, whoever becomes president will obviously be the most powerful person in Malawi for the next five years. But while this electoral debacle continues, the most powerful person in Malawi is Atupele Muluzi. He is the one person who may have to decide as to who should become the next president.

And in hindsight, Atupele would have actually become the country’s vice president had he chosen not to run for presidency, choosing instead to be a running mate to Peter or Chakwera. We all knew that but somehow it is just not easy to make politicians see sense especially when they have seen the crowds at their rallies. His loss.

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