This week all aspirants, from presidential, parliamentary and ward councillors are presenting their nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), which is one of the requirements for them to be allowed to participate as contestants in the forthcoming tripartite elections on May 21, 2018. As expected, it is the presidential presentation of nomination papers, which is attracting most attention, particularly on the question of the choice of running-mates, who eventually become State Vice President.
It has been a week of high political temperature and drama in Malawi and everybody is on the edge of their seats to witness events as they unfold. Already we have seen some political deals being made and deals crumbling, and from the look of things, it seems we are yet to witness more twists and turns to the political melodrama in the final day of nominations on Friday.
However, what most Malawians are waiting for is to see who President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika eventually picks as his running-mate. This is due to the fact that the choice of a running-mate, whether one likes it or not, is one of the most crucial ones that any presidential candidate can make. It has the potential of turning around a sloppy campaign into a formidable one and can also unmake the fortunes of a good candidate if not well considered.
This fact becomes more crucial and telling for President Mutharika and DPP because he is credited for picking Saulos Chilima as his running-mate in the 2014 tripartite elections; a choice which proved strategic and one which went on to be a winning ticket. Obviously Chilima will not be his running-mate this time – he has moved on – but Malawians are expecting the same level of strategic thinking [or even better] from President Mutharika in terms of running-mate choice, and he needs not disappoint.
The stakes this time are therefore high, in fact very high. President Mutharika will be the last one to present his nomination papers to MEC at COMESA in Blantyre, but so far what we are hearing about his choice of running-mate are turning out to be only just rumours.
As is always the case, this time, and as it was in 2014, a lot of names are being thrown into the ring as possible running-mates for him. Some of the names are names that have been close to the epicentre of the operations of the DPP, whereas others are obviously old and tired.
The Malawian political history presents a lot of free lessons for President Mutharika and he is free to learn from it. Mistakes have been made before about the choice of running-mates; in fact others are still struggling to recover from the aftermath of running-mate mistakes up to now. President Mutharika is, therefore, advised to tread carefully on this one because any mistake now can cost the DPP dearly and even throw it down a political precipice from where it may hardly come back.
As much as it is possible to pluck a running-mate from outside the DPP’s political system, President Mutharika is advised to choose a running-mate who is a DPP born and bred and one with the temerity and leadership qualities to hold the party together. Based on the lessons that DPP has learnt with Saulos Chilima, the running-mate this time must be an original DPP with the party’s DNA in his or her blood.
There are several individuals in the party who have come from very far and have gone through all the seasons. They were there during the times the party went through tribulations after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. Even when others were running away thinking the party had breathed its last, these people fought for DPP to regain its lost glory and to become a formidable entity again. They were there when Peter Mutharika and some senior members of the party faced political persecution at the hands of People’s Party government of Joyce Banda and even got arrested with him.
Not that Mutharika should just pick anyone on the basis that they were there when DPP was established or faced persecution for being DPP. It is important to explore all options in a critical and deliberative manner but of greater importance is the fact that a DPP insider and all-rounder should be given the responsibility of becoming Mutharika’s running-mate and eventually Vice President of this country.
The DPP is flush with bona-fides from where President Mutharika can choose a running-mate. Uladi Mussa is one of the original founding members of the party who also served as Cabinet Minister under the late Bingu wa Mutharika as Minister of Agriculture and Home Affairs. However, in as much as he is a founding member of the party, he faces accusations of not being stable because he is one of the people who left to join PP, together with the likes of Sidik Mia, among others, when Bingu died. Uladi Mussa is famous for hoping from one party to another and is known as ‘chenji golo’ because of that habit.
Goodall Gondwe is also another original founding member of the party who was there with Bingu, but he is old and an octegenarian and may not have any more capacity to hold the party together. Other names that keep coming up are those of Cabinet ministers Samuel Tembenu and Bright Msaka as they are brilliant lawyers who may be good for regional politics to help the party get votes in the eastern and central regions.
However, as much as they are good on paper, they are not original members of the DPP system and do not command significant ground support of the party, which is a critical element for one to bring value to the presidential ticket.
The choice which is however coming naturally as running-mate to Mutharika is that of the party’s southern region Vice President, Kondwani Nankhumwa. He is a founding member of the DPP who also served in Bingu wa Mutharika’s cabinet in different portfolios. He is someone who has risen through the ranks and, therefore, equipped with the party’s ‘operating system’ and institutional memory. He is loyal to President Mutharika and DPP. Being a youthful politician, at only 40, he represents the brighter future of party, especially considering that the majority of the voters this time round are the youths.
It is this Friday that the Head of State will present his nomination papers and simultaneously unveiling his running-mate. It will be a defining moment for the governing DPP, which made history during the 2014 tripartite elections when, while in opposition, it beat both the ruling PP of former President Joyce Banda and the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP of Reverend, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, the erstwhile President of Malawi Assemblies of God Church.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :