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Monday, May 30, 2011

30 months before General Elections finding DPP alternatives: Why opposition needs to find a candidate today

If you ask anybody who will run for DPP in 2014, even a child will scream that Professor Peter Mutharika is the likely candidate for 2014. The same question sent to the Malawi Congress Party will produce a variety of answers. Some believe John Zenus Ungapake Tembo and others will give you a litany of excuses.
In UDF, there is emerging acceptance among many politics weary Malawian that Atupele Muluzi has become a defactor leader of the UDF and the youthful generation in Malawi. He has better chances than any other competitor, his main strength being age, reason and conduct in our muddy politics.
But reality is that Atupele has to manage excess baggage that characterises the UDF, that is trying to tame the ever combative George Nga Mtafu, balance the needs of Friday Jumbe and find space to accomodate Cassim Chilumpha.
Unfortunately for the young Muluzi, Jumbe and Chilumpha believe its their turn to try their luck at the national ballot. That is where the current fight will not go away soon and it will drain all the potential chances UDF has.
The Young Muluzis base will only be strengthened if the UDF can wake up today and become more realistic to claim the title from the DPP.
There are other entrants on the market, notable ones being Vice President Joyce Banda's Peoples Party and Loveness Gondwe's Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM). These two have the potential to make it on the regional level, but they have serious flaw in terms coming up with a national class of a party.
The PP might pull Zomba and Chiradzulu- the latter depending on where Jumbe and Henry Mussa lie when 2014 arrives as these are strong characters while Machinga, Mangochi, Balaka, and parts of Blantyre could easily return to UDF.
PPs best chance could have been Northern Region, but the PDM backed by the all powerful Livingstonia Synod cannnot be written off. Some smart politicians in the North from the DPP including Ephraim Chiume, Frank Mwenefumbo, Nick Masebo, Thindwa in Rumphi East and Catherine Gotani Hara, might survive the Tsunami and return in 2014 all things remaining as they are.
DPP faliure to consolidate the North can however be overturned should the party hold clean primary elections and the grassroots choose own candidates. The personal loyalty to the candidate and the split within opposition can see the ruling party get well over 15 seats of the 33 in the region.
Coming to the Central Region,. Peter Mukhito should out of nowhere be one of the core reasons DPP can claim considerable loyalty. One might ask, how he comes in.
The success of the DPP in the region was basically premised on the fact increased security in rural areas, has seen farmers income grow including their ability to rear animals in large numbers.
The success of the DPP was on delivering food security, stability in terms of reduced cases of theft and President Bingu wa Mutharika's fight with tobacco farmers, a crop that has built major tradings from Mponela to Nkhamenya, Mkanda to Mwansambo.
The major threat to such a success has been the conduct of most parliamentarians, who three years down the line still ride on previous success without building a political structure that sustains the gains.
Most DPP MP's are either too educated to mix with the poor people or they are politically illiterate that at the time tobacco farmers are struggling, they all have gone quite and waste time on trivials.
The other major set back for the DPP would its faliure to harness its figures. There are three important figures in the Central Region, Bintony Kutsaira the Secretary General, Henry Chimunthu Banda-the Speaker and Ken Kandodo the Minister of Finance.
To a distant, though not trusted by anybody, he still emerges as a political player is Hetherwick Ntaba who has become the mouth of the President, making him access to the President more than any other politician.
Kutsaira, Kandodo and Chimunthu Banda can work miracles in the region, as both have their own strength, but internal politicking of the DPP would either want Kandodo out, or on the otherside want to finish off Kutsaira.
Kutsaira is politically strong at grassroot organisations, Chimunthu Banda an operator with a national trustworthy set, Kandodo is a brand associated with Kamuzu legacy. Either find an operating module for all of them together or forget with the internal fights.
The MCP can only come back in districts like Dowa, Ntchisi, Kasungu and Mchinji if party President John Tembo revamps the party and works to transfer power to poeple outside his ring of loyalists.
Otherwise, 2014 all things being equal, DPP, PP and even UDF depending on the outcome of their conventions stand a chance to share many seats.
Lastly as the last 30 months of Mutharika's reign are starting to be counted down, DPP's biggest weakness is now itself. Too much gossip and campaigns that will weaken the party further.
This is the time the party needs to regroup, bring back strong characters like Patricia Kaliati, Henry Phoya and Henry Mussa and harness the potential of the those already working for the party.
The opposition has still a long way to go to catch up with the ruling party as they are failin to sieze opportunities created by the DPP through issues such as fuel, forex, academic freedom and British diplomatic row. Next week we start looking at individual candidates starting with Joyce Banda.

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