UTM Party, whose leader isVice-President Saulos Chilima, on Thursday primary elections in the northern region instead of a free and fair democratic ritual, the exercise in some parts became an ominous sign-post as violence, parallel structures and vote-buying took centre stage.
The primaries in Mzimba Solola will have a re-run following allegations by one of the contestants that there was massive delegate shopping in the process.
Sugzolane Kazomba Nyirenda and Beatirice Kumwenda are battling it out so they can stand on UTM ticket in this year’s tripartite elections, but Kumwenda accused Nyirenda of ferrying delegates from neighbouring Zambia.
“The delegates were not original,”said Kumwenda.
Pandemonium ensued at the centre at Manyamula following the revelation which forced the leaders to suspend the primaries.
Kumwenda said she would not allow the “nonsense” happen on her watch.
Nyirenda—formerly People’s Party—came third in the party’s primaries in 2014, but was handpicked by former President Joyce Banda as the party’s candidate.
But UTM spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga rated the performance in primaries at over 90 percent, saying they were “a success despite minimal challenges.”
Mzimba Solola incumbent legislator is Jacob Hara of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and legacy has been marred by reports of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) abuses.
In Mzuzu there were will also be a re-run the after a chaotic and utterly dramatic turn of events held at Mbachenda Gardens in the City.
Independent presiding officer Tony Kanyika said they failed to count the number of voters who rallied behind the three contestants; incumbent Mp Leonard Njikho, Deputy Mayor of Mzuzu City Alexander Mwakikunga and businessman Justice Chimaliro.
“We need a re-run,” said Kanyika.
Despite being so close to winning the primaries evidenced by the hundreds who rallied behind him, the Mzuzu MP Leonard Njikho was betrayed by his supporters who lifted him, and carried him off chanting victory songs, before Presiding officer could count the them.
Although Njikho tried to signal his zealous supporters to put him down and return to the lines, it was too late as the supporters carried him straight to the stage were the presiding officers were while chanting “Jose, Jose.”
Then aspirant Alexander Mwakikunga rushed to inform the media that he had withdrawn from the primaries and would contest as an independent candidate.
“ How can you have a winner before votes are counted. I am withdrawing from these elections, I am contesting as an independent member. I am not contesting in UTM, all this is useless. I am not going to be part of UTM, I will just support the Party,” Mwakikunga said.
But the drama did not end here as supporters of all three candidates then carried their Aspirants chanting their names and marching around the place.
In Nkhata Bay South where incumbent MP Emily Chinthu-Phiri went unopposed, it was peaceful, just like in Nkhata Bay North where shadow MP Chrissy Kanyasko also went unopposed.
The primaries were postponed in Nkhata Bay Central, Nkhata Bay West and Nkhata Bay North West constituencies, according to deputy district governor Simon Mkolongo.
“It was a bit chaotic in Nkhata Bay North West because we were supposed to have 1 900 delegates, but as many as 4 000 delegates came. It was so confusing that we couldn’t go on with the primaries because that meant we had people who were ineligible voters. We may conduct the primaries on Friday or Saturday,” said Mkolongo.
On Likoma Island, the primaries were shifted to January 8 2019 to accommodate a candidate who is currently in Lilongwe.
In Mzimba North East, Karonga Central and Chitipa Central, incumbent legislators Olipa Chiluba Muyaba, Lawrence Nthakomwa and Moses Mlenga, respectively, went unopposed while primaries for other areas in Mzimba were yet to be concluded by press time at 6pm.
Felix Katwafu Mwakayira triumphed in Karonga North West while Luwani Msowoya, daughter to Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, went unopposed in Karonga Nyungwe.
Meanwhile, political analyst George Phiri of the University of Livingstonia in comments reported by the local press said the chaotic scenes in the party primaries as a sign that many people want to join and represent UTM in the forthcoming polls.
“This shows that many people are interested in the party. What is wrong is the violence. People should know that in an election, one wins and others lose. So there has to be tolerance,” said Phiri.
UTM has defied all odds and held the elections in one day.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :