Some few governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are pushing for Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu as a more viable option for a running mate to President Peter Mutharika in the May 21 presidential race, Nyasa Times understands.
The social media has recently been flush with various names as possible running-mates to President Mutharika. Some have gone as far as concluding that the decision has already been made and that everything is now a foregone conclusion.
But a faction operating under the banner of ‘DPP Patriots’ have dropped a memo to President Mutharika that they endorse Tembenu to be the runningmate.
The information was corroborated by one of the members of the faction who said they have submitted the memo to President Mutharika through government Chief Secretary Lloyd Muhara.
Mutharika, 79,—eligible for a second term and mandatory final term as per the Malawi Constitution— is set to pick his runningmate and present to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) during nominations before February 10.
The DPP Patriots faction is arguing that President Mutharika is quite advanced in age and he obviously does not have the energy of a 40-year old person, therefore, he must activate the succession plan.
They want Tembenu to shadow and understudy President Mutharika so that he takes over when he eventually retires from the political stage and Tembenu can in turn pick someone from the ‘DPP Patriots’ from Thyolo as his second-in-command.
According to the constitution of the Republic of Malawi, the Vice President is the one who takes over in the event that a sitting President is incapacitated or dies in office. It happened before in Malawi when the late President Bingu wa Mutharika collapsed and died in office whereupon Vice President that time, Joyce Banda, took over the reins of power with catastrophic consequences for DPP.
But the mainstream DPP is not buying the Tembenu runningmate ticket.
They want a bona-fide DPP member with a comprehensive institutional memory of the party to deputize President Mutharika as running-mate and to front the party’s new youthful identity projection.
Currently, the person who systematically embodies that projection is the party’s Southern Region Vice President, Kondwani Nankhumwa.
But the DPP Patriots faction does not back Nankhumwa despite him being a a proper DPP product who has risen through the ranks of the party to the top and has comprehensive knowledge of the party and its structures and is the one better able and disposed to defend and protect its ethos and vision.
Nankhumwa, who is also Local Government and Rural Development minister, Leader of Government Business in Parliament and Member of Parliament (MP) for Mulanje Central, is also young and undeniably loyal to President Mutharika, the party and its beliefs.
He has proved to be a man of the people and has recently demonstrated that he is capable among the four regional vice presidents of pulling crowds to his rallies, which is a trait DPP needs in its leaders of the future.
Others in DPP are also suggesting President Mutharika should consider their political bedfellows, United Democratic Front (UDF) with its leader Atupele Muluzi as his runningmate.
Obviously, Nankhumwa and Muluzi names as possible running-mates to Mutharika would be quickly dismissed due to the fact that they come from the Southern Region where President Mutharika comes from.
The argument is that DPP cannot have a scenario where its presidential candidate and running-mate come from the same region. It would mean that the other regions would feel left out and may not vote for the DPP in next year’s elections.
However, there is a strong converse argument that, as much as running-mates are important in an election; it has shown that people in Malawi do not necessarily vote for a running-mate but a presidential candidate. In 1994, Bakili Muluzi chose a career civil servant, Justin Malewezi as his running-mate, and despite serving with him for two terms, he lost elections in 2004 when he took a go at the presidency.
Bingu wa Mutharika won in 2009 with Joyce Banda as his running-mate but JB went on to lose elections when she had an opportunity in 2014. Peter Mutharika also chose a political non-entity from the private sector, Saulos Chilima, in 2014 but won the elections, which again underlined the fact that the value presidential running-mates bring to presidential tickets is only just negligible.
It also feeds into the argument that it is possible to win an election with a candidate and running-mate from the same region as long as they represent the common aspirations of Malawians. Bingu wa Mutharika, from Thyolo, won with a landslide in 2009, with Joyce Banda, from Zomba, as running-mate.
Recently, the public discourse has been awash with debate about the value that presidential running-mates bring to presidential tickets of their political parties, especially during elections.
The debate has been particularly defined by sharp exchanges between Mutharika and his esntranged Vice President Chilima. Chilima accused Mutharika and the DPP of not appreciating the role that he played ahead of the 2014 tripartite elections, claiming that DPP would not have won the elections if it were not for his contribution.
Mutharika and his army of supporters on the other hand have chided Chilima for overestimating his own importance and value. They have accused him of being just a passenger and contributing basically nothing to Mutharika’s win in the 2014. President Mutharika even publicly proclaimed that Chilima only came onto the scene 60 days to elections, and that by that time DPP had already ‘won’ the elections.
Already, almost all major political parties in this country are talking about running-mates, with various politicians silently campaigning and positioning themselves to be running-mates for their party’s presidential candidates.
Only Malawi Congress Party (MCP) torchbear Lazarus Chakwera named his running mate as Mohammed Sidik Mia, his party’s deputy president.
There are 18 candidates that have so far collected nomination forms from MEC to contest in the presidential racein the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
They include incumbent President Peter Mutharika, UTM Party president and Vice-President Saulos Chilima, Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera, United Democratic Front president Atupele Muluzi as well as People’s Party president and the country’s immediate former president Joyce Banda.The aspirants are expected to pay a nomination fee of K2 million each to participate in the elections.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :