Atupele’s mind games

It is early days yet and-as some respected commentators have said-United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Atupele Muluzi may not necessarily stand as a candidate for State President on his party’s ticket in the forthcoming Tripartite Elections slated for May 21 this year despite collecting nomination papers from the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

According to the political experts, the son of former president Bakili Muluzi may simply be trying to negotiate from a position of strength.

He knows he cannot win on his own, but he is also aware that he has political value given his family’s political dominance of the Eastern Region of the country that helped him get 13.7 percent of the votes cast in 2014.

That showing put him fourth in the presidential contest after Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Peter Mutharika, Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) Lazarus Chakwera and the then sitting president Joyce Banda of People’s Party (PP).

He surely could be a king maker and might as well be a spoil sport for DPP if the ruling party does not get him on board in some capacity, especially the running mate spot to President Mutharika, a position Atupele seems to covert so much.

At the same time, I also know Atupele to be a highly driven and ambitious man who wants to lead the country one day.

Atupele-who is currently Health Minister in the Mutharika administration-must be grappling with two tough choices of what must be saved. Should he save himself or the party?

If he stays in the so-called working relationship with DPP and accepts to be either running mate or embraces the promise of a second vice-presidency at some point should Mutharika retain Kamuzu Palace, he will be saving-even serving-himself. For it is likely that an electoral alliance with DPP might just wipe out a party his father took decades to build and which won three consecutive general elections.

Indeed, the UDF legacy; that of his father Muluzi and Atupele’s own, will erode even before he completes the party’s rallying cry: UUUUUU!!!!!DF!

On the other hand, because he still wants to be president one day, Atupele might do well to save-and even serve-the party of his father by standing as presidential candidate on UDF ticket.

Because he is still young, he has time to redeem himself and rebuild the party for a distant future victory (because the truth is that UDF cannot win a presidential election any time soon).

It is really hard to get into young Muluzi’s mind, but, if I may, I would like to share what I wrote on this space in June 2014 when APM tapped Atupele into his Cabinet. I hope my thoughts then could just be the prologue to the young Muluzi’s thriller of a novel.

I wrote, in part:

“The inclusion of United Democratic Front leader Atupele Muluzi [in the Mutharika Cabinet] was, however, an interesting one although I was not too surprised.

The young Muluzi appears to like the trappings of power and the limelight that comes with it whenever a new administration is in place.

Atupele accepted the Economic and Development Planning portfolio from outvoted former president Joyce Banda of the People’s Party (PP) only to run back to papa wiping his nose and eyes after Uladi ‘Chenjigolo’ Mussa-who had thrown his little party under the bus to join the Amayi gravy train-bullied him mercilessly.

Today, Atupele claims he is in the DPP-led government to serve Malawians, especially because he has suddenly discovered a lot of synergies between DPP and UDF that he says will somehow see him implementing his ill-defined and ill-fated ‘Agenda for Change’ at the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining.

Atupele might not realise it, but he has just become the everyday politician he demonised on the campaign trail.

The UDF leader, like the typical politician he has become, may just have figured out-selfishly I must add-that being in the opposition for five years would be too long.

He will probably jump back into the UDF ship closer to the 2019 elections, leaving government with claims such as he saw too much corruption in the Peter administration and, therefore, did not want to be part of it-the same old story.”

So, for now, Atupele is one of the pawns in Peter Mutharika’s chess moves as he consolidates power.

There are at least three weeks to go before we know who will actually stand as a presidential candidate after submitting nomination papers-and being approved by MEC. So, we will see what happens, eventually.n

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