With just over a year to go before the next general elections , it is interesting to see political parties setting out their strategies on how to capture the votes- yes the crucial votes that not only will give them a lot of parliamentary seats but also hand them the keys to the state house with a presidential winner.
It is easy to admit that recent events on Malawi political scene have given the political parties a wakeup call. The recent joining of MCP by Lower Shire Giant Sidik Mia has been a game changer. We have seen focus going into how the regions will be crucial as to who will get a lot of votes.
I was not surprised to see a new cabinet reshuffle and of interest is the appointment of northerner Charles Mhango for the role of attorney general. It is going to be a game of calculated regional strategies from now.
It has been an obvious certainty that the opposition Malawi Congress Party is dominant in the central region of Malawi. The Southern region has become the heartland for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). This leaves the Northern Region as a region where no single political party is enjoying dominance. That’s why it is easy to single out; that the northern region will easily come out to be the crucial swing vote that will hand over the presidency to whosoever is going to win in 2019.
Let us not forget however that, the core regionalism voting has watered down over the years mainly due to many political parties being born and getting chunks of votes within the regions. If we go back to 2004 elections at the core of regionalistic votingpatterns, data will reveal that Chakufwa Chihana got 85% of the Northern vote, Kamuzu Banda got 70% of the central region vote and Bakili Muluzi got 75% of the southern vote . Yes, the trend might have changed over the years, especially in the dwindling down of the percentages but it cannot be denied that regional voting pattern will likely happen again in the next elections.
Since the 2004 elections MCP has struggled to get votes in the North. Things were expected to change in the last general election as Richard Msowoya was nominated as the running mate for Dr Lazarus Chakwera. While the party made some inroads as in regards to the share of the vote , still they did not make a bigger impact. The hope for 2019 was that Msowoya would increase his dominance of the region and hence prop up MCP.
Things don’t look likely though with the coming in of Sidik Mia, as it is quickly becoming a badly kept secret that he will be the running mate for Chakwera in the next elections. It would be interesting then to see how much support the MCP will still have in the North after dumping Msowoya. Will Msowoya still campaign for MCP ? And will the perception of the people from the north, be that of victims who have ruthlessly been dumped by the MCP leader?
DPP have made biggest inroads in the north. From the time when former President Bingu Wa Mutharika gained a number of seats in the north , the party has managed to get a good share of the vote in the region even at the time when Joyce Banda’s Peoples Party (PP) was in government . DPP as a party always has an upper hand over the others especially in there spread of the vote. In the areas where the party is not regarded as the dominant one- they still managed to get a good share of the vote which in the end helps them when the overall share of the vote is counted.
What is interesting is that two other parties that had dominance of the north in the past are facing two different fortunes and that Alliance for democracy (AFORD) and PP. AFORD is galvanising itself for a comeback. Things are looking positive now; it is only the ballot that will test their comeback. AFORD is far from fighting the Presidential race, so even if they win the North in terms of Members of Parliament, it leaves the gap as in whom will the people vote for presidency.
PP on the other hands seems not to know what their future is like. Their leader and former presidency has been out of the country and nobody knows when she will come back – and whether she will decide to stand for presidency again. It’s this uncertainty that will leave PP losing its morale in the region. Lack of clear direction is also what is facing the United Democratic Front (UDF), that’s why it is hard for them to even be thought of capturing the northern vote.
It is based on this analysis that I can pick out the North as the main battleground in the next general election. With 2019 vote likely to be fought within regional lines, MCP having a stronghold in the centre, DPP dominating the south and having MCP take out a chunk of the Lower Shire with their capture of Sidik Mia, It leaves the Northern Region as that much needed swing vote. When the battle is fought and then it comes down to numbers- surely the northern vote will be that crucial vote that will hand the keys to the state house to Malawi’s next president.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :