Today’s debate included two of the hottest contenders for the 2019 presidential race. Though UDF has a well-defined political base and party structures, its presidential hopeful, Atupele Muluzi, is manifestly in close romance with the fact that both MCP and UTM are, by far, sailing closer to the paradise of power than himself. And so Atupele approached the debate with a well calculated political formula. In his Arithmetic, he lands on a decision to portray Chakwera as a political novice who should still be clothed political diapers and fed soft porridges. He paints Chakwera as a boy whose hands are not washed well enough to be trusted with manning the presidency. He also caricatures MCP manifesto describing it as being ‘promising the whole sun’.
Atupele did not stop there. He rehearsed the art of launching missiles targeting on smashing down Chilima’s presidential ‘hotness’. In many incidences, Atupele questioned Mr.Chilima’s promises describing him as the man who has had full potential to implement many of his promises, but somehow failed to. However, the young Muluzi sees himself as a political angel sent to change the way politics is practiced in Malawi. He sees his working in DPP cabinet as a big asset in a briefcase of his political stature. More so, he views himself as a man who is politically tolerant and able to work with people regardless of existing social staccatos. Though he failed to be straightforward in categorically stating his party manifesto, he still managed to come between the two political giants, and make them stand conspicuously uncomfortable. He perpetually threw blows of political puzzles orchestrated to give the negative perspective of their campaign promises.
But Chilima approached the debate knowing he is a top league player. He was calm and composed. He had prepared his responses, and mostly minded his business. However, he failed to unequivocally metamorphose his experience in government into a golden political capital. Of course, he highlighted some of achievements he posted as a chairperson of public service reforms, but that was after Atupele whipped him with unprecedented verbal attack. In the next debate, I expect him to be more charismatic, quick to transform questions catapulted against him into a political goldmine designed to reinforce his level of experience and vision.
Chakwera said he needed president Mutharika in the debate, as opposed to his members of cabinet. Throughout the debate, Chakwera was both energetic and composed. He focused his responses on questions. However, he failed to address the issue of zero experience in government that Atupele branded him with. He also didn’t nail it on the head on too flamboyant promises people accuse his party’s manifesto of making. His responses mostly started and ended on corruption. However, he bombed on target his closing remarks ending his message on creating a government of national unity.
In moving forward, the candidates must remember debates are mostly designed for them to sell party manifesto, display their political elaborativeness and account for their actions and personalities. We shouldn’t just look at the political promises, we should also assess personalities, attitude and experiences. We must examine personalities behind every promise to affirm genuity of their political pronouncements. After all, what matters in leadership is not only the possession of ideas, having the energy and good personality matters too. That’s why the debaters and moderater should always give a wider room for candidates to assess one another’s profiles and defend what they stand for.