The prospects of President Peter Mutharika and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) retaining power in 2019 Tripartite Elections are slipping away due to the cracks that have pinned the party’s two titans against each other.
Published reports suggest Director of Elections, Ben Phiri, is sponsoring cadets in the South to push President Peter Mutharika to fire Greselder Jeffrey from the position Secretary General and that of chairperson of the DPP primary elections committee.
It is alleged, Phiri is disgruntled that he was overlooked by Mutharika who settled for Jeffrey as an overseer of the committee responsible for running the party’s primaries.
“Ben Phiri was certain his position as Director of Elections made him an automatic chairperson of the primary elections committee. He could not believe eyes when Mutharika appointed the SG” a source, who asked for anonymity, told this publication.
According to our source, Ben Phiri has been palm-oiling some influential cadets to cause havoc during the primaries. The source also allege that he has conspired with candidates who have lost the primaries to protest the results while blaming Jeffrey as the architect of the chaos that has marred the primaries.
“This is a well calculated move by Ben Phiri. He visits losing candidates where he promises them that the party is behind them. With their situation, it is easier to believe the party is indeed backing their candidacy and that losing the primaries is the manifest of the SG.
“Ironically, some of the candidates disputing the results received less than 10 percent of the votes. Some of these candidates are not aware that they are being used by Ben Phiri who wants to use the backdoor to rise to the position of the Secretary General. He knew well he could not win against her at the convention in July”.
It is also alleged that some incumbents who lost the elections had initially made a handsome payments to who is deemed DPP’s foot-soldier to ensure they are picked by the party only for the Secretary General to bring in independent presiding officers from other constituencies to run the primaries to cut the risk of rigging as conspired.
“The strategy made it impossible for aspirants to know who will be manning primaries in their constituency. This did not please both serving parliamentarians and those who had been paid to rubber-stamp their candidacy as backed by the party”.
On her part, Jeffrey also concurred with our source, saying people baying for her blood are bad losers who had bribed some presiding officers to rig the primaries.
Jeffrey claimed to have knowledge that some presiding officers were against her committee’s handling of the primaries because they were allegedly palm-oiled by some aspirants to tilt results in their favour.
She said: “Some of them [presiding officers] received money from aspirants to rig the elections, but failed because I was changing presiding officers and constituencies to conduct elections at the eleventh hour contrary to the official list”, Jeffrey told The Nation newspaper.
Ben Phiri, who referred to President Peter Mutharika as maliseche akumwera (Southern Region’s genitals) in what analysts described as reflection of DPP’s tribalism and regionalism running of politics, was not available for comment. But the Nation reports that the group he is allegedly sponsoring met at a hotel in Blantyre to strategize on how to push Jeffrey out of her position as DPP Secretary General as well as chairperson of the committee coordinating the primaries.
Ironically, the committee coordinating the primaries is yet to meet. Published reports claim the meeting has been slated for Monday where results and reports of all primary elections from presiding officers will be assessed for final approval by the President.
In her interview with the local paper, Jeffrey said she does not rule out the possibility of reruns in some of the constituency if deemed fit. She said, despite being chairperson of the committee coordinating the party’s primaries, she has no powers to announce the official results.
“After the president’s approval, honourable Nicholas Dausi [DPP spokesperson] will announce the official results” she said.
Meanwhile, University of Malawi’s political analyst Mustafa Hussein has observed that demanding Jeffrey’s resignation as Secretary General is misplaced. But said calls for her resignation only points to widening cracks within the party hierarchy.
The political scientist also warned the ruling party that unless it timely and amicably resolves the difference, DPP will be weakened for 2019 elections to effectively face Vice President Saulos Chilima’s rising popularity and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) pair of Lazarus Chakwera and Sidik Mia.
Ben Phiri, who was President Mutharika’s personal aide, is said to have successfully plotted the downfall of Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima who opted to form UTM after warning Mutharika of ‘taming snakes’.