All things being equal the ballot paper for presidential candidates will have 12 names on the morning of May 2019. That will be 12 symbols for a voter to check, 12 faces of candidates to remember, 12 names of political party to deliberate over.
True, the Malawian ballot paper might not be the longest in the world but it has to be the most useless when a critical analysis were to be done of the candidates who would like to try their luck at ruling this country.
It cannot be disputed that the republican Constitution gives every Malawian over the age of 35 and a citizen of the country the right to contest as a presidential candidate.
However, it is the same Constitution which lists seven other prerequisites for one to be eligible to be nominated as a presidential candidate or runningmate, among which is Section 7 (a) of the Constitution which states that a person shall not be qualified for nomination as a presidential candidate if the person is of unsound mind, declared or adjudged.
Looking at the list of people who have collected nomination papers from MEC, one wishes there was a provision that would compel the voter to lodge a complaint with the commission to check whether a particular candidate is of sound mind.
At least nine of the presidential candidates who collected forms from MEC should not have bothered to do so. It is immoral for an individual to seek validation through the ballot.
The list has individuals whose aim is either to market themselves to presidential candidates still grappling with the choice of runningmate or to seem relevant when even their mother would not vote for them.
The president of United Democratic Front comes to mind. Until some weeks ago, UDF was failing to declare its intention to contest at the presidential ballot. For good reasons too.
For four years, UDF literally sold its soul to the devil and discarded what it had stood for, if anything, to enter into some dubious alliance with the Democratic Progressive Party in which what both sides termed as a parliamentary coalition.
In other words, DPP used UDF as toilet paper, to be used to pass bills and motions in Parliament and discarded when outside the Parliament precincts.
UDF’s Atupele Muluzi played along and has been adequately rewarded with numerous ministerial posts. The same cannot be said of the MPs who went with him to the government side.
It has been rumoured for many months that the ultimate reward for that selfish relationship would be a runningmate position. If the DPP was not political savvy enough to see the future, they would grant Bakili Muluzi his wish.
Atupele originates from the Eastern Region and would be perfect for bringing in the votes from there but then again the fear that UDF would swallow DPP and the elder would finally exact his revenge on the betrayer that was a Mutharika is just too great in the blue camp.
No doubt, Atupele could get more than 200 000 votes, definitely less than he managed to amass in 2014 because few really know what he stands for anymore.
Another product looking for a buyer is Joyce Banda and her Peoples Party (PP). After four years in self-imposed exile only to materialise 12 months to elections, she cannot be so delusional as to think she stands a chance of being elected president of this country. That time went with 2013 when she lost it.
But to a presidential candidate looking for votes, she has something to offer and that is a few votes in the east and north. Like the younger Muluzi, she is there for the taking to the highest bidder.
Henry Jailos Mbewe, Smart Swira, Independent, Pastor Dr Baxter Boyd Natulu, Peter DSD Kuwani, Chris Daza and Cassim Chilumpha-probably fulfilling a dream which Bingu wa Mutharika snatched from him so mercilessly-and others would do well to just donate that K2 million to the needy. They would be remembered kindly for that particular act.
The K2 million fee which MEC imposed for both male and female candidates should have been deterrent enough to avoid such a long ballot paper but that has not worked.
What remains now is to embarrass these individuals out of existence come May 2019 so that they never give voters a headache again in 2024. n