United Democratic Front (UDF) leaders spent the weekend meeting with chiefs and constituents with rallies in Balaka, Machinga and Chikwawa districts where, it’s leader Atupele Muluzi said he is “open minded” on how the party will contest in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Muluzi challenged that his party has one million guaranteed votes ahead of the 2019 watershed elections.
All three rallies were well attended by local people with a number of candidates and party officials being introduced to jubilant party supporters.
The young Muluzi addressed the crowds in Balaka North and Machinga South East while his deputy for the South, Lance Mbewe addressed party supporters in Chikwawa East Constituency
Chikwawa East was won by UDF party during the 2014 elections and the current legislator is UDF’S Khumbanyiwa.
Heavy down pour was not enough reason to deter people from attending the rallies where traditional dances replete with party songs took centres stage.
The message that was highlighted across the events is that the UDF is ready and well positioned to govern as it has maintained its structures since the advent of multiparty democracy and remained strong.
They highlighted that the UDF was the party that initiated multi party democracy in Malawi and are committed to maintaining that democracy.
Muluzi said he was ready to deliver and make change as Malawi needs youthful leadership that must propel the country to growth.
“The emphasis is on a new beginning for the UDF party,” said Muluzi.
As such UDF leader said they are openly talking to anyone who shares their commitment to both development and democracy; with Muluzi going further to highlight some of the details highlighted in the recently published 2018 Institute of Public Opinion (Ipor) study ahead of the May 21 2019 elections.
Muluzi said that while no one party can comfortably win the elections on their own, his party has a guaranteed one million voters ready to vote UDF at the next elections.
“This is a very strong base to start from and our task in the next few weeks is to consolidate our base. No party has this advantage as we head into 2019 that we have,” said Muluzi.
UDF —currently in a working relationship with governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — is open to electoral pacts as its constitution does not restrict the same but places emphasis on seeking a new beginning.
The party leaders said there will however be a need for coalitions or alliances to establish a credible government next year.
Atupele, who is Minister of Health in President Peter Mutharika’s Cabinet, went further to highlight UDFs role in the past four and a half years in government and the work he has done to maintain stability.
Both Muluzi and Mbewe highlighted the focus on developing jobs, particularly for young people and the need to identify new economic opportunities to support these jobs.
They also appealed for more candidates particularly female candidates, ahead of their primaries which are due to take place in December 2018.
“We want to bring in new ideas and am encouraging the youth and women to step forward,” said Muluzi.
Commentators have however asked UDF to come clear on the party’s relationship with DPP ahead of the elections.
Governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times on Monday that the truth of the matter is that Atupele let alone members of the UDF know very well that the party which governed Malawi from 1994 to 2005 has no chance of winning an election single handily.
“ And the only way they think they can make a difference in the next election is by increasing their bargaining power with the DPP by demonstrating that they still have a considerable following in the Eastern region good enough if they partner to make DPP win.
“So UDF wants to prove to DPP that if they leave them out of the coalition they might be losing some significant votes to make them outsmart UTM and MCP in the next election. In short, UDF is simply bargaining for runningmate position with DPP through the demonstration of what it brings on the table if such an alliance works,” observed Munthali.
Since the 2014 elections, UDF has been in a parliamentary relationship with DPP.
DPP and UDF might form a political coalition during the 2019 elections on condition that Muluzi will be a running-mate. However, some of the DPP gurus do not want Muluzi to be second-in-command to President Peter Mutharika.
However, party leaders said they are not banking the position of running-mate to the DPP candidate.
UDF, former ruling party, lost its foothold in the country since former president Bingu wa Mutharika – who was handpicked by Bakili Muluzi as his successor – ditched the party in 2005 to form DPP.
Chancellor College political analyst Joseph Chunga basing his opinions largely on the recent Ipor survey and the 2017 Afrobarometer surveys said the importance of each party in the coming elections cannot be overemphasised and that DPP are better guaranteed victory with the help of UDF.
In the Afrobarometer survey, 27 percent of Malawians said they would have voted for DPP if elections were held then compared to 32 percent who preferred MCP, 11 percent for UDF and seven percent for PP.
However, the landscape has changed with the entry of UTM in the race.
“While an electoral coalition doesn’t necessarily mean simple addition and subtraction, these survey results offer us some insights for simulating something that’s evidence-based,” said Chunga in quotes reported by the local press.
Meanwhile, the elections mood is getting hotter.