Former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) emerged as the biggest loser in the March 30 2021 parliamentary by-elections as its numerica
strength in Parliament weakened by three legislators.
On the other hand, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the main player in the governing nine political-party Tonse Alliance administration, was the biggest winner as it scooped four seats in the by-elections held in seven constituencies.
For MCP, two of the seats—Nsanje North and Nsanje Central—were gains as they were held by DPP legislators before the High Court of Malawi ordered fresh elections following irregularities in the May 21 2019 Parliamentary Elections.
MCP went on to retain Lilongwe Msinja South and Ntchisi North which fell vacant after the party’s legislators succumbed to Covid-19.
United Democratic Front (UDF) also retained the Chikwawa East parliamentary seat in the court-sanctioned rerun following nullification of the May 21 2019 Parliamentary Elections over irregularities.
UTM Party, MCP’s partner in the Tonse Alliance, won the Karonga North West Constituency the two parties hotly contested.
Independent candidate Bizwick Million outclassed nine other candidates to claim the Zomba Changalume seat that fell vacant following the death of a People’s Party legislator.
From the unofficial results, DPP lost Nsanje North, Nsanje Central and Karonga North West which its candidates had won in 2019.
The former governing party’s solace came in the Local Government Elections where its candidates won the two vacant wards, notably Livilidzi in Balaka West Constituency and Chitakale in Mulanje South Constituency.
Re a c t ing t o the unofficial results, political and governance pundits yesterday predicted doom for DPP if the party fails to sort out its in-house problems quickly.
The pundits said DPP
should call an early convention and not wait for 2023 to elect a replacement for its president Peter Mutharika.
In an interview, University of Malawi Chancellor College associate professor and political scientist Boniface Dulani, who is also executive secretary of the African Association of Political Science, said DPP was complicating its own situation.
He argued that party leaders who helped in the campaign for the by-elections were not sincere as they went out to sell themselves as the party’s presidential aspirants instead of promoting candidates for the election.
Said Dulani: “This is obviously a clear warning sign that if they keep fighting, they might find themselves degenerating to the same level as the United Democratic Front. But this country needs a strong opposition and the DPP is the best hope we have.”
On his part, Happy Kayuni, a professor of political and administrative studies at Chancellor College, also said the loss should be a wake-up call for DPP.
He observed that the support the party enjoyed among the grass roots was slowly weaning due to ongoing squabbles.
Kayuni said: “The squabbles are affecting the party seriously. The performance clearly shows that DPP is going down and if they are waiting for 2023 for a convention, they might as well declare that they are not going to contest in 2025.”
DPP spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira yesterday said he needed time to consult, saying: “These things put me in trouble, always.”
However, when called again at the agreed time, he did not answer his phone.
In a separate interview, Catholic University head of Department of Political Leadership Chimwemwe
Kandodo said the influence of former minister of Transport and Public Works Mohammed Sidik Mia (deceased) and his widow Abida, a legislator for Chikwawa Nkombezi, have helped MCP bolster its influence in the Lower Shire Valley.
She said people in that area also needed change after being with DPP for some time.
Kandodo said: “Time comes when people want change and that time is now. They have been with DPP and those two [Francis] Kasaila and [Esther Mcheka] Chilenje for some time.
“The other thing is that the Mia family has invested a lot in wooing people to believe in MCP. They have spent a lot. That factor is huge and people are following.” She also noted that UTM Party was gaining ground in the Northern Region, but urged the party to do more.
On his part, University of Livingstonia political scientist George Phiri said it was good that UTM Party had won a seat as the victory in Karonga North West was an indication that the party still had support in the Northern Region.
He said: “What makes UTM strong here is that people have trust in the leader [and the country’s Vice-President] Saulos Chilima. They know Chilima can deliver and that is what they want.”
Cracks in DPP came to light after party secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey told The Nation that Mutharika had done his part and that the party needed a new person to lead it into the future.
However, the sentiments did not go down well with Mutharika who asked Jeffrey to apologise. Even after the two met to mend fences, nothing changed.
Later, the party fired vice-president (South) Kondwani Nankhumwa alongside Jeffrey, treasurer general Jappie Mhango and Mulanje West legislator Yusuf Nthenda, for allegedly influencing the rejection of Mutharika’s appointee, Kasaila, as Leader of Opposition in Parliament. The matter is now in court.
Mutharika lost the court-ordered June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election to the nine-party Tonse Alliance led by MCP president Lazarus Chakwera who partnered Mutharika’s then estranged Vice-President Chilima of UTM Party.
Peter Mutharika took over the leadership of DPP after the death of his brother, Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012, propelling the party to victory in the 2014 Tripartite Election During the 2019 parliamentary elections, DPP had 62 members of Parliament (MPs) in the 193-seat Parliament. It was an increase of 12 MPs from 2014 when the party got 50.
Likewise, MCP recorded an increase of seven MPs from 48 in 2014 to 55 in 2019. The UDF won 10 seats, PP had five, UTM Party four and independents had 55 seats while Alliance for Democracy Aford won a single seat.