Northern Region vote is PP’s to lose

The Northern Region vote is for the People’s Party (PP) to lose. But is the governing party’s leadership inspiring and motivating enough to earn the province’s respect and confidence?

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the region’s hearts in 2009, sweeping ballots in record numbers largely thanks to the political grouping’s sound policies on the economy and food security as well as the influence of the region’s prominent sons such as then Finance minister Goodall Gondwe whose opinions counted at the time. But DPP lost the region soon after the elections due to arrogance, specifically the open distaste that former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika started emitting towards those folks up there.

Poor economic and political governance record post May 2009 was also the DPP’s downfall.

Probably, the most defining moment in the romance was the introduction of the so-called quota system of selecting students to public universities, which most northerners—rightly or wrongly—felt targeted them in terms of curtailing their education potential.

And when Mutharika went on the public podium to baselessly claim that there was a ‘Mzuzu Corner’ at Chancellor College where lecturers originating from the Northern Region divulge examinations to students  from the North, the ‘after Jenda’ dwellers ruthlessly divorced DPP as demonstrated by results of a by-election in Rumphi Central where the then ruling party miserably lost its seat to Alliance for Democracy (Aford) candidate Enoch Chihana, the current Sports Minister, despite DPP outspending and out-organising the late Chakufwa Chihana’s son and his party.

The point is that DPP won the trust and respect of the region in 2009, but betrayed them in a big way. Those folks up there don’t forgive and forget easily.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on its own has never won the region in the multiparty era except when it has been in alliance with a party or individual northerners considered to be credible.

Otherwise, MCP has struggled to gain traction up there and unless something dramatic happens to change the game, the oldest existing party has no chance there. What about United Democratic Front (UDF)?

The party of the Muluzis has no credibility in the region, having failed to impress in several election cycles and there is no sign that a different outcome could be on the cards come May 2014.

Aford? Most northerners discarded the party long time ago when Chakufwa was still alive after realising that the grouping took them for granted for too long, trafficking their vote to the highest bidder whose proceeds only benefitted a few.

That leaves PP with a massive opportunity to lock up that vote and they need it badly. Believe it or not, the Southern Region vote is a toss-up likely to be split among PP’s Joyce Banda, UDF’s Atupele Muluzi and DPP’s Peter Mutharika whereas my expectation is that the Central Region could strongly return to MCP depending on how Chakwera manages the goodwill and the political momentum that to some extent remains with him.

The northern vote can, therefore, be the decider, the swing region of this electoral cycle.

Do the PP leadership and its strategists know that? What have they done to inspire the region into its fold? Why are northerners still sceptical of the PP even when, for the first time in the country’s history, the State Vice-President is from the province?

Furthermore, with the President’s husband coming from Nkhata Bay, you would expect northerners—at least based on the deep-rooted tribal politics—to say Nya Mtila ndi muwoli withu. Yet, that is not how she is being viewed in the North. Why? Where is the disconnect? How is the political messaging crafted? How is it targeted?

When President Banda camped in the North recently for days, the deficit of excitement up there was naked, embarrassing not just to the President but also onlookers.

The President may as well have been at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe not Mzuzu State Lodge where she was based during the period. The presidential rallies were poorly organised and attendance was low. Is that a signal for something?

For goodness sake, this is the region that is under the political jurisdiction of no other than Vice-President Khumbo Kachali. Why was the President’s visit so low key? Could it be that the PP and its leadership have not inspired the folks up there strongly enough?

Mrs. Banda herself has not helped her party. Instead of looking at big picture extraordinary issues, she has concentrated on the ordinary short-sighted things such as distributing blankets, maize flour and attending to any little event as long as someone has dropped in a card at Kamuzu Palace gates.

There are too many petty but public squabbles in the party and the President, apparently too weak to bring everyone in line, has failed to tame them and cannot exert her authority on. Her political messaging hardly inspires.

The earlier she develops an effective stump speech that tends to bread and butter issues, the better for her and the party.

There are so many questions she has to address in her speeches that voters, including those from the North, want answers to.

She is silent on them. No wonder the region is silent too whenever she goes up there. And it will be silent on her face when it comes to ticking the presidential ballot.

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