As we have almost two years to the forthcoming 2025 General Elections, most Malawians are curious to know with certainty which names will appear on the presidential ballot papers.
With the introduction of 50% +1 as a criterion to determine the winner of the presidential elections, we highly expect that the tough battle will be ensued between the torchbearers of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
It is almost certain that the incumbent State President, Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, will battle it out with his predecessor, Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika.
Whereas the focus is on the presidential candidates, it is of paramount importance never to overlook the significance of running mates because they too play a crucial role in the victory of a presidential candidate.
In the first place, both the MCP and the DPP Constitutions empower the torchbearer of the party to nominate a running mate of their choice. Furthermore, Section 80(4) of the Malawi Constitution stipulates that the President and the Vice President shall be concurrently elected during the presidential elections.
Obviously, this implies that the running mate automatically assumes the role of the Vice President once the respective presidential candidate emerges the winner.
It is therefore crucial that the office of the Vice President should not be underestimated. Much as it is a delegated position, Section 83 (3) of the Malawi Constitution empowers the Vice President to automatically assume the role of the State President when the office of President falls vacant. In fact, a precedent was already created when the then Vice President, Mrs. Joyce Banda, became the State President after the sudden demise of Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika.
It is against this background that caution must be taken when choosing a running mate. I will consequently present five criteria that may help a presidential candidate to choose a suitable running mate.
Firstly, usually presidential candidates choose a running mate who will bring a substantial number of votes. Indeed there are times when votes cast their votes for a presidential candidate simply because they vehemently support the running mate. Remember that the faces of both presidential candidate and running mate appear on the ballot paper.
Secondly, in a country like Malawi where tribalism and regionalism are rampant, presidential candidates usually choose running mates that come from a different region of origin. This is why Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera chose Sheikh Mohammed Sidik Mia as his running mate during the 2019 Presidential elections.
Thirdly, it is highly recommended that a presidential candidate must choose a running mate who has an impeccable record of high integrity. The incessant sour relationships between the President and his Vice President in the past regimes have proved to be retrogressive.
Fourthly, a running mate must be a presidential material as he may likely become the State President once the office of President falls vacant.
It is therefore highly recommended that the competence of the running mate must be seriously considered.
For instance, many Malawians expressed total dismay when Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika settled for Mr. Everton Chimulirenji as his running mate during the 2019 presidential elections.
Lastly but not least, in spite of the aforementioned criteria a presidential candidate may choose to compromise the quality of a running mate due to constraints imposed by the electoral party alliance.
This scenario is highly likely in 2025 General Elections because Malawi embraced 50%+1 as a means of determining the winner of the presidential election.
In conclusion, Malawians should not underestimate the significance of a running mate. When they are voting for a presidential candidate of their own choice, they must be aware that they are also putting into power a vice President who may later become the State President in case of the vacancy in the office of the President.