Don’t shred the vote!

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  1. Folks, on Tuesday Malawians will be voting for the sixth time since the multiparty dispensation was ushered in some 25 years ago in 1994.

We can’t help asking the question: what’s there to show for it? If you ask those in government the answer to the question is that starting 2014, Malawi economy is on the growth trajectory. That’s why APM deserves another term.

But if you ask the opposition, the answer is that we’ve been an independent State for the past 55 years yet we’re worse off today than ever before. They also see APM’s first term as a flop characterised by abject poverty, food insecurity, rampant corruption and divisive politics of patronage and cronyism.

Re-electing APM, they argue, is entrapping the country in another five years of inertia and indecisiveness.

But the choice isn’t just about change or maintaining the status quo. Those who are for continuity of the APM government, their humble duty as citizens will simply be to tick the famous chongu in the appropriate box on the ballot.

But it’s voters who want change who have the onerous task of choosing one among six pro-change candidates—MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera, UTM’s Saulos Chilima, UDF’s Atupele Muluzi, Umodzi Party’s John Chisi, MMD’s Peter Kuwani and Reverend Kaliya, an independent candidate.

These six champions for change have no ideological differences whatsoever. In fact, variations in their campaign messages are more in detail than principle, making it hard for voters to make an objective issue-based pick among them.

Which begs the question: why are all of them in the race for the presidency which can only go to either the incumbent or one of them at any given time? Why cram the race when there isn’t much difference in what they are offering the voters?

Is it that all the six believe they are strong enough to win? Could it be that some are simply driven by an insatiable desire to savour the breeze at the apex of political and economic power, which is what the state presidency has become in Malawi?

There’s no denying presidents who have so far served in the multiparty system have displayed as much sense of entitlement to public revenue and other resources as did Kamuzu who was at the helm when Malawi was a one-party state.

The multiparty rendition of the old song: zonse zimene nza Kamuzu Banda can as well simply substitute the name Kamuzu Banda with the name of the incumbent although Section 12 of the Constitution stipulates that the authority of the State derives from the people of Malawi.

Being elected President makes one serve as Head of State and Government at the same time. It also means being Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. Even the spouse becomes a titled person who’s venerated as First Lady (Amai) or First Gentleman.

I bet even though it’s obvious that some of the six are just wasting time trying, they are still driven by the hunger to grab and use the enormous powers the President has to hire and fire Cabinet ministers, board members of parastatals and top officials in government and the entire public sector.

Maybe they imagine having the mile-long presidential motorcade at their beck and call, cruising on our pot-holed roads after the traffic police have removed all other motorists to the sides hours earlier.

Maybe they get fascinated with the millionaire philanthropist propensity displayed by all the five presidents Malawi has had so far to throw around millions of kwacha as donations or freebies to citizens who are, by some inexplicable tradition, assumed to be poorer regardless of their station in the land.

My take is that pro-change voters should not waste their valuable votes on any of the six they consider weak even if that candidate is a brother or cousin. First, identify who you think is the strongest contender among the six and give that person your vote.

That way, the opposition vote would be shredded to the point where the incumbent can win even with less that 30 percent of the votes.

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