Pollsters predict JB’s win in Malawi vote

Pollsters say all roads appear to lead to President Joyce Banda of the People’s Party (PP) winning next month’s election with projections by Research Tech Consultants, an international research and marketing firm, predicting “landslide” victory for the incumbent.

On May 20, Malawians will vote in the country’s first tripartite elections to select their president, members of parliament and local government councillors. The forthcoming elections are Malawi’s fifth since transitioning to multiparty democracy in 1994.

A record 12 candidates will appear on the presidential ballot but the consensus is that they are four leading contenders; the incumbent, Joyce Banda (People’s Party/PP), who succeeded former president Bingu wa Mutharika following his sudden death on April 5, 2012. Peter Mutharika (Democratic Progressive Party/DPP), Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi Congress Party/MCP), and Atupele Muluzi (United Democratic Front/UDF) round out the list of perceived front-runners.

President Banda: Tipped to win
President Banda: Tipped to win

African presidential elections often have a strong incumbency bias, and the most recent Economist Intelligence Unit report on Malawi has predicted a Banda win in a “closely fought” election.

Malawi has a first-past-the-post electoral system, meaning a presidential candidate needs only to win a plurality of the vote to be elected.

In the fresh project, Research Tech Lead Consultants Thomas Odala and  Ian D’heygere said  Banda would solidly win the elections, saying the findings have been concluded following an extensive research the organisation undertook in the country

Research Tech  said it conducted a national survey to establish the popularity of the Presidential
Candidates for the impending elections in the months of February and March, 2014 to establish the popularity of the Presidential Candidates and the likelihood of a change in administration.

The survey is the result of a consortium of interested foreign investors considering an emerging markets portfolio and establishing a risk profile for various markets.

Odala said Research Tech is also evaluating upcoming elections in the Republic of South Africa, India, and then Mozambique later this year.

” We wish to share the results of the Malawi survey on the presidential candidates for the 2014
tripartite elections where a  total sample size of 3883 respondents was used and this sample was
assigned to the regions and districts based on the population ratios of the 2008 population and housing census, “said  the statement from the pollsters

According to the National Statistical office, the total population of Malawi in 2008 was 13,077,160 comprising of 1,798,930 (Northern Region) representing about 13% of the total population, while the
Southern Region contributed 5,858,035 representing 45% of the population, and final the central Region with 5,510,195 representing 42% of the total population.

Following the 2008 population distribution (by region), the survey assigned the sample size of 3883 to the northern, central and southern region using 13%, 42% and 45% respectively, translating to 500 respondents (about 13%) in the Northern Region, 1633 respondents (42%) in the Central Region and 1750 respondents (45%) in the Southern Region.

According to the research, the regional samples were further assigned to districts, by using the population distribution ratios as of 2008 population and housing census results.

“Blantyre, Lilongwe and Zomba were divided into city and district, i.e. Zomba City and Zomba district; Blantyre City and Blantyre district; Lilongwe district and Lilongwe City. The same applied for Mzimba which was divided into Mzimba district and Mzuzu City. Likoma Island, as such there is no result for Likoma district,” said Odala.

Research Tech said their interviews included and accounted for a sub-sample of 3184 “likely
voters,” corresponding to a presidential election turnout of 82 percent.

According to the researchers, the survey is based on a representative sample of all areas of the country, including the most rural; over 240 different sampling points included small rural villages. (eg. Lanston Njewa EA7, STA Chitekwele EA31, and Phalombe TA Mkhumba EA109). Results from the full sample are subject to weighing the data to account for potential abnormalities in various sampling environments, improving the overall statistical margin of sampling error to +/- 3.1 percent while results for likely voters are subject to a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.6 percent.

The researchers told Nyasa Times that in the Southern Region, out of the 1750 respondents in 15 districts, 805 respondents said they would vote for President Joyce Banda representing 46%,
followed by Mutharika with 577 respondents representing 33%, Austin Atupele Muluzi with 262 respondents representing 15% then Chakwera with 70 respondents representing 4%.

The researchers further added that choosing “other” or who were undecided tallied 36 respondents
representing 2% of the regional sample.

They said from these results, it is clear that the PP remains the strongest party in the Southern Region of the country. The performance of Atupele Muluzi is mainly attributed to the Yao belt (Mangochi, Machinga and Zomba) however it’s split with Banda in this area.

Researchers added that particular performance by Atupele in the Yao belt seemed largely attributed to the high regard the belt accords the former head of State Dr Bakili Muluzi, being the first to ascend to the presidency from this region.

Researchers said in the 10 districts covered in the Central Region, MCP presidential candidate Chakwera, is leading  with  42%.

The pollsters said Chakwera is trailed in the central region by Banda at 37%.

“The United Democratic Front also has a lot of work to do to convince the electorate, earning just 6% in the Central. DPP and UDF challenges appear to largely be attributed from the Late Bingu Wa Mutharika’s performance in the last three years of his tenure and former head of State Dr Bakili Muluzi regime in the region.

“Challenges of favouritism and tribalism that dominated DPP leadership and part of UDF leadership create concern in voters from Central region who were previously left out and who generally have
positive memories of original MCP leader, Dr Hastings Banda,” reads the survey findings.

In the Northern Region, Banda has a steady lead with 41% of the vote. A surprising second at 21% of the responses were those voting for “other” presidential candidates, which included undecided voters.

“In the case of the North, it seems there is regenerated interest in the Alliance for Democracy; this can be attributed to its past record that brought together the region as one political block with  Dr Lazarus Chakwera lands third with 19%,”reads the findings, adding that, “On the other hand, except for Karonga and Chitipa, which seem to have a heart for DPP, the performance of the DPP is rather weak in the region as reflected by Mutharika’s performance of 14%”

” The reasonable performance in Karonga and Chitipa Districts may be attributed to the Karonga –Chitipa road which is highly valued in this part of the country. Austin Atupele Muluzi comes
third at 5%.”

The researchers pointed out that President Banda however needs to live the austerity talk and continue to pursue all roads of stopping and prosecuting corrupt activity.

“The party should stop exaggerating the fruits of the economic reform as the so called fruits have not yet trickled down to the masses in full,” Research Tech noted.

“While the other parties have opportunities to make significant gains, it is unlikely they will be sufficient in the remaining time to result in a change of administration,” noted the report.

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