Talking Blues: Malawi By-election 5:1 – MCP soars, as DPP tumbles

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Without much ado Blues’ Orators, I beg to finish my work from last week on the by-elections that have since transpired with catastrophic, but widely anticipated outcome for the Democratic Progressive Party (Malawi) (DPP).

Today’s discourse goes both ways.

Just as it offers lessons for the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), whose euphoria could mislead one into thinking it has won the FIFA World Cup; the DPP – while still busy licking its wounds, can also benefit.

For the record, the results are as follows: MCP won Nsanje-Lalanje, reclaimed Lilongwe Msozi North and proved that in 2014, it was robbed of Lilongwe City South East constituency.

‘In-form’ MCP did not stop there; it retained Mtsiliza Ward and made an unprecedented foray into Ndirande to win the Makata Ward.

DPP pulled one back, winning the Mayani North Ward in the constituency of MCP Central Region Chairman, Patrick Chilondola MP where DPP’s Nicholas Josiya got 2,390 votes; MCP’s Benson Lameck trailed with 1,690 votes and UDF candidate Everista Kusina only netted 200 votes.

I will revisit this later on.

Last week I did submit that if MCP wins all the three constituencies, DPP needs to be worried.

Blues’ Orators, this has come to pass and ‘worried’, is not the right word; ‘stunned’ is more apt.

I also argued that if an MCP loss in Nsanje will be attributed to Sidik Mia, so should victory.

Blues’ Orators, a win has come to pass. Indeed, Mia seems to have rekindled Nsanje’s long-lost love for MCP.

Why am I saying “rekindled”?

Going into the annals of history, in 1994, MCP under Kamuzu Banda secured 51% vs Bakili Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF)’s 41% in Nsanje.

In Nsanje-Lalanje, MCP’s parliamentary candidate A.C. Sabola triumphed with 57% against UDF’s D.G. Chapeyama’s 38% of the vote.

The October 17, 2017 victory is therefore not MCP’s first in Nsanje or Nsanje Lalanje.

In 1999, Gwanda Chakuamba increased MCP’s stake at Presidential level to 65% against Bakili Muluzi’s 33%.

In Nsanje-Lalanje, MCP’s Matthew Lapozo got 10,481 votes against UDF’s S.A. Vazhi who got 4,584 out of the 15,065 votes.

Thus, for a whole decade, Nsanje District and Nsanje-Lalanje Constituency were the ‘home of MCP’.

Trouble started in 2004 with the squabbling of two ‘MCP’ heavyweights.

The wrangling saw them taking opposite sides in the Elections. In the Presidential race, Hon JZU Tembo led the ‘MCP proper’ while late Gwanda Chakuamba and his breakaway Republic Party (RP) led the Mgwirizano Coalition.

‘When brothers fight’, it is said ‘a bystander snatches the plunder’. This was true of MCP in 2004 and Bingu wa Mutharika snatched the ‘wallet’.

The votes in Nsanje: RP’s Chakuamba 51,602 votes (72%), DPP’s Bingu 18,099 (25%) and MCP’s JZU 629 (0.9%).

Even National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s Brown Mpinganjira was ahead of MCP’s JZU.

The parliamentary result in Nsanje-Lalanje mirrored the same with MCP’s Matthews Lapozo grossing a mere 808 votes (7%) against RP’s Steven Malamba who got 7,414 votes (61%), marking the end of the MCP era in Nsanje and Nsanje-Lalanje.

This notwithstanding, in 2009, MCP’s JZU votes increased a bit. He got 8,989 votes (12%) but was roundly trounced by Bingu who grossed 57,980 votes (80%) in Nsanje.

Note that 2009 was the first ever election for Nsanje District to vote for a ‘winner’ after consistently siding with ‘losers’. It was also Lawrence Sitolo’s maiden run in Nsanje-Lalanje parliamentary races.

Parliamentary results: DPP’s Sam Ganda 6,324 votes; followed by Lawrence Sitolo (contesting under a People’s Progressive Movement [PPM] ticket) with 2,583 votes; then NRP’s Steven Malamba 1,555 votes; then Winnie Wakudyanae with 1,025 votes and the last but one was MCP’s Matthews Lapozo who got a mere 222 votes, beating only one little known independent candidate.

Come 2014, Dr Lazarus Chakwera was MCP’s flag bearer.

DPP’s Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika amassed 55,524 votes (65%), and Chakwera came a distant fourth with 2,814 votes (3%).

Second and third were People’s Party (PP)’s Joyce Banda with 15,517 votes (18%) while UDF’s Austin Atupele Muluzi – then endorsed by Sidik Mia secured 9,058 votes (11%).

At parliamentary level, from the thousands of votes MCP used to amass in Nsanje Lalanje in the 1990s, its 2014 candidate got a mere 132 votes (0.8%).

The winner, late Sam Ganda (Independent) got 7,295 votes (43%); seconded by then PP’s (ex-PPM) Lawrence Sitolo 6,702 votes (40%) while the third, Steven Malamba got 2,253 votes (13%).

That MCP could win again in Nsanje-Lalanje was therefore beyond the wildest dreams of ‘Abusa’ Chakwera and hence the euphoria today.

What lessons can Malawi Congress Party (MCP) draw today?

Firstly, that Nsanje was the home of MCP but that supremacy ended due to greed and infighting exacerbated by “running mate” feuds.

Secondly, that even when MCP was supreme in Nsanje and Chikwawa, it did not win the presidential election.

MCP needs more than Nsanje and Chikwawa votes and patronage to win in 2019.

Thirdly, that MCP is very poor at defending its base.

The fact DPP’s consolation in these by-elections has come from the MCP’s Central Region Chairperson’s backyard in Dedza Mayani, should be a cause for concern.

The Mayani North Ward result raises three questions:

  1. Is the MCP Central Regional Chairperson delivering as an MP?
  2. Is he going to be re-elected in 2019?
  3. If he can’t secure his own home, just how can he protect the rest of Dedza, not to say the central region?

At national level, the question is: with Mia, MCP may have reclaimed Nsanje. But how about the remaining parts of the country?

There is the populous Lhomwe Belt, which MCP can ignore at its own peril.

Then there is the Eastern Zone comprising Machinga, Mangochi and Zomba. By the way, not all the voters in the eastern region vote along religious lines.

Hence Mia’s strange and self-defeating ‘strategy’ of focusing on leaders of a particular religion is a non-starter, synonymous to doing it to himself with a finger.

Look here: isn’t Mayani supposed to have a healthy ratio of Moslems? Didn’t Mia partake the campaign in Mayani? And, what was the outcome?

What does this say about the need for an all-inclusive strategy in general and the ‘Mia’ phenomenon? What has Mia himself learned?

All this is nutritious food for thought.

Blues’ Orators, as far as MCP is concerned, the Northern Region, with an approximate voter population of 700,000; is even more complex.

Check this: while DPP managed to rake up votes up north in May 2014 even after the north suffered the most fatalities in the July 2011 massacre; MCP faired poorly.

Just when the North seems to be beginning to appreciate the fact that MCP despite everything, still conferred the Office of the Speaker of the National Assembly to the same region where the party was rejected in 2014 with the people voting massively for either DPP or PP; a bunch of MCP parliamentarians are increasingly finding it difficult to be civil to the Speaker as a result of the new phenomenon in town.

Read the thinly veiled derogatory posts by MCP officials and members vis-à-vis the party’s elected Deputy Presidents on social media and you will understand what am saying.

In short, IF Mia’s coming and apparent success in Nsanje creates or enhances internal divisions, factionism and politics of exclusion; then like the proverbial monkey who fell head first due to indecisiveness and duplicity, MCP has nicely managed to snooker itself into an untenable position.

Is Chakwera leader enough to resolve this conundrum?

If he isn’t then DPP will laugh last because it will, in a repeat of 2004, be the principal beneficiary should this quandary remain unresolved.

Moving on to the DPP, Mutharika must now take heed.

Columnist after columnist, the independent electronic and print media and I, Mapwiya Muulupale, have been shouting ourselves hoarse on the many low hanging fruits Mutharika can and needs to harvest to regain Malawians confidence and hopefully, votes in 2019.

For our troubles, Mutharika lambasts us for writing “bad things about Malawi”.

Now, is it us or the voters who are writing “bad things about the government?”

Is it us who are perpetuating the internationally embarrassing blood-sucking vampire myth in his Lhomwe stronghold?

If the by-election results are the litmus test, voters will definitely “write very bad things” about Mutharika and his DPP on the ballot papers in May 2019.

Mutharika, be warned!

To sign off, congratulations MCP. Fix the quandaries above and in 2019, you will win big. Become complacent, and DPP will hit you where it hurts the most, again.

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16 Comments

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