First, let’s commend ourselves for resisting the strong temptation to comment on the proceedings of the ongoing case in the Constitutional Court where Malawi Congress Party (MCP)’s Lazarus Chakwera and United Transformation Movement (UTM)’s Saulos Chilima are forcefully challenging the results of the May 21 elections in which the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate, Peter Mutharika, as winner.
Having said that, no law prohibits discourses focussing on life after a case has run its full course.
Only one of two possible outcomes is expected from the case. The Judges will either rule that despite everything, MEC was right and indeed Peter Mutharika was the legitimate winner or annul the results.
Whichever way, life will have to continue.
In the event that – despite everything – the Court upholds MEC’s determination; Chakwera’s work will be cut out for him: his task will be leaving the MCP strong, stable and ready to elect its flag bearer for 2024.
Being the gentleman he is, he is expected not to tamper with the MCP constitution which accords its president only two shots at the State Presidency. For the record, he wasted his first shot in 2014 and near-messed up his second in May 2019.
Should the Court uphold MEC’s determination, we will have seen the last of his face on presidential ballot paper as MCP’s official flag bearer.
Chilima’s fortunes are different.
First of all, this was his first shot. Secondly, even if it weren’t, UTM as a brand is intricately interwoven with the persona of Chilima and it is difficult to imagine, under any circumstances, UTM under anyone else. Thirdly, UTM’s constitution is not that clear on matters of succession. Hence, anything is possible.
That said, it is in the event that the results are annulled that I want us to dwell on.
In that scenario, the major parties i.e. DPP, MCP and UTM will go back to the drawing boards and prepare for the mother of all reruns.
DPP, always able to gobble up whole parties from head to toe as the United Democratic Front (UDF) has come to realise, will again dangle all sorts of goodies to the smaller and often inconsequential parties.
These parties, oblivious of death-bed ridden UDF’s experience, will throw their weight, whatever it counts for, behind DPP. Of course after that, no one will ever hear of them again. Of their leaders, we will learn through Social Media that they have gone east, to China or some place, as a ‘visiting scholar’ – whatever that means.
If MCP and UTM hope to prevent a drubbing at DPP’s hands, they will have to pair up.
Unlike in the run-up to the May 2019 elections, they will have to heed advice, eat humble pie and collaborate if only to prove Justice Ansah wrong.
Contesting separately means splitting the vote again and gifting DPP a minority which nonetheless is big enough to see the DPP flag bearer win. MCP and UTM successfully gave DPP this advantage in May 2019; if they do it twice, it will be insanity in its most unmitigated form.
Now to the conundrum:
- How many UTM transformers will rally behind Chilima should he want to partner with MCP?
- How many of Chakwera’s hangers-on will put a brave face on, admit they misled Chakwera and fall in line to embrace UTM transformers?
If at this point your head is bamboozled, grab a panadol because we haven’t even started; all this is preamble.
The deal breaker, as everyone knows, is who will be the first and second principal? i.e. if MCP and UTM pair up, who will be the ‘junior’ running mate?
Although the spectacle of Chakwera and Chilima sharing jokes at the court is now common, the moment this question is popped to them, those smiles will varnish faster than light and egos will swell and fly sky-high like hydrogen balloons.
When pondering this question, Chilima will have it easier. Given leeway by UTM convention to pick a running mate, he chose Michael Usi. Now, unless I have been reading Usi wrong all along, Usi wouldn’t mind Chakwera and Chilima or Chilima and Chakwera partnering.
But, can the same be said of Chakwera’s May 2019 partner, Sidik Mia?
Let me rephrase this.
Will Mia, knowing as he does that should a rerun come by it will be Chakwera’s last shot, allow Chakwera to partner Chilima without a fight? Will he admit that his ‘Lower Shire gianthood’ is a fallacy?
Granted, the May 2019 elections may have been compromised. However, were Mia truly a ‘Lower Shire giant’ and not a ‘Cheshire cat’ as ridiculed by Mutharika; shouldn’t he have had in place – in his stronghold – mechanism to counter rigging?
The point is: MCP has been claiming since time immemorial that its votes are stolen. Hence, it is fair to expect that Mia would have, at a minimum, ensured that votes from the Lower Shire are delivered intact.
This raises questions as to whether Mia’s supremacy wasn’t in fact oversold to the MCP faithful. Numbers, as they say, don’t lie.
Luckily for us Blues’ Orators, we don’t have to sweat out the answers to these questions.
Assuming a rerun comes into play, these questions plus many more, will be for Chakwera to find appropriate answers for or lose again and retire.
In Chakwera’s shoes, whilst chitchatting with Chilima on the court premises, I would be wondering why I am contesting the results of an election which had I teamed up with the chap sitting next to me, I wouldn’t have been hanging around courts, praying for justice.
Look at this: going by MEC’s own disputed data, Mutharika got 38% of the votes. By deduction, Chakwera plus Chilima got 62%, a majority decimated by egos and greed.
Last shot: should fate give Chakwera and Chilima a second chance, won’t egos and greed undermine them again?
All up to Chakwera and Chilima.
This article first appeared in The Daily Times