The outcome of this week’s parliamentary by-elections, where the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came out the biggest loser, has one strong message to the party. DPP should quickly start preparing for an elective convention for people to choose leaders that start rebuilding the party.
In the by-elections, DPP lost three seats—Nsanje Central and Nsanje North previously held by Francis Kasaila and Esther Mcheka Chilenje, respectively. Kasaila is a former senior Cabinet minister in the former ruling party while Mcheka Chilenje is a former deputy Speaker. DPP lost both seats to its archrival Malawi Congress Party (MCP). The party also failed to reclaim the Karonga North West seat and lost all the other seats—Lilongwe Msinja South, Ntchisi North, Zomba Changalume and Chikwawa East.
DPP’s only consolations in the polls are two wards it won in Chitakale in Mulanje and Liviridzi in Balaka.
On the other hand, MCP shared the victories with UTM Party (Karonga North West) and United Democratic Front (UDF) in Chikwawa East.
The result has clearly cut out the tasks for the DPP politburo. If DPP members are to keep the party afloat, they should do the needful. They should stop philosophising about and phantasizing with the party’s constitution, thinking that simply religiously following the party’s laws will save it from demise.
DPP can do everything right in terms of observing and promoting intra as well as inter party democracy, but if it does not immediately hold the much-talked about and much-awaited elective convention, it is standing on sinking sand.
The truth north for the party is not sitting on its laurels and waiting for time to lapse until 2023 to hold the convention. The true north for the party is to quickly do some soul-searching and get the bona fide party members to do what can save the party from sinking into the muddy waters some of its officials have created for their personal benefits.
What will salvage the party from imminent demise is not sticking to what the party’s constitution says about when the next convention should be held. What will salvage the party now is to seek the views of the people about the earliest convenient date the party can hold an elective convention and put the right people in office to steer the ship out of the muddled waters it is now in.
What DPP urgently needs now is new leadership in all its executive positions. The party’s embarrassing loss in the just-ended by-elections is a vote of no confidence in the current crop of leaders. They have done their part in taking the party this far and it is time party members voted them back in office or elected new people into office.
There is no way DPP would have reclaimed the two seats in Nsanje and in Karonga or let alone grabbed any seat from MCP or UDF when it is torn apart with the infighting that is wreaking havoc in the party. DPP is right now torn apart between two rival teams—one camp led by former president Peter Mutharika and the other by DPP vice- president for the South, Kondwani Nankhumwa. This means the party is now expending most of its energy fighting itself instead of rebuilding itself.
That is why we are saying it is only the much-awaited elective convention that can resolve this infighting for leadership between the two camps. The sooner DPP holds this convention, the earlier it will put itself on a rebuilding trajectory. But as it stands now, DPP is digging its own grave. Unfortunately, those in favour of holding the convention in 2023 are personally benefitting from the infighting and party’s weak position.
Besides, Malawi needs a strong opposition to provide the checks and balances on government.