By Fryson Chodzi
Watching from the terraces the much touted political alliance of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM is like watching a game of thrones.
Chances are that we might not have this alliance or we will have something resembling an alliance while it’s a marriage of convenience full of mistrust and wounded foot soldiers on each side.
To begin with, the prime reason why this alliance is stalling and likely to fail is MCP.
MCP has this feeling of being superior to any party that it partners with and always would want to dictate the terms of the alliance and want all its partners to be on the receiving end which worked very well with nonentity parties but not with a party on the rise like the UTM.
In order to understand this point, let’s examine the past alliances that MCP has had with other political parties in any elections.
1999 General Elections – MCP & AFORD
In the stated elections MCP President Late Gwanda Chakuamba entered into an alliance with AFORD led by Chakufwa Chihana. The alliance never worked and lost the elections to Bakili Muluzi because before the alliance was announced then MCP Vice President John TEMBO demanded be the running mate and Chihana be given the Second Vice Presidency after victory.
Sound familiar? The end result when Chakuamba was bold to pick Chihana going against Tembo led to the latter causing serious damage on the candidacy of Chakuamba/Chihana team.
2004 General Elections – No Alliance
All the attempts to form an alliance with any political party hit a snag as MCP demanded nothing less than the Presidency. This was very difficult to convince the much egotism Candidates in that election of Chakuamba of Mgwirizano Coalition, and Brown Mpinganjira of the populist National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The end result was the victory for UDF and its candidate Bingu Wa Mutharika with something like 33% of the votes after the Opposition split their own votes into four if we are to include the sixty something thousand votes that then Vice President Justin Malewezi got.
2009 General Elections – MCP & UDF
This was by far the most bizarre alliance in the political history of Malawi. It’s inexplicable in a sense that these two parties are very much different in terms of ideology. They are like North and South pole in terms of differences.
The only factor that bonded them together was the desire to boot out Bingu Wa Mutharika of DPP. Sounds familiar? The challenge with this alliance was that MCP opted to pick Brown Mpinganjira of UDF as a running mate but was not picked and supported by the UDF.
The only reason UDF supported this alliance was because MEC had denied the Candidacy of former President Bakili Muluzi and UDF had no candidate and only choice was to endorse one or another candidate.
This alliance pulled the largest crowd in the history of political rallies at both Masintha and Njamba park in Lilongwe and Blantyre respectively.
What failed from this alliance was rumored that three weeks before the elections MCP was already planning to arrest UDF Leader Bakili Muluzi and other leaders if they win the elections.
The rumors unnerved the UDF base and there were rumors of sabotaging the MCP/Mpinganjira bid from within. The end result was the largest resounding victory of Bingu in the history of elections in Malawi.
2014 Elections – No Alliance
In a case of overconfidence, MCP thought that the battered Joyce Banda and People’s Party was and easy target to oust from the Government.
With the negative narrative of ‘Cashgate’ hanging on the head of PP and its President, MCP thought they will go for a kill and finally get into power.
However this was a miscalculation as not many people did not understand the zeal and determination of Peter Mutharika and the DPP. The end results MCP came second as usual while PP came third
2019 Elections – MCP/PP/FP Alliance
The 2019 MCP got away with the alliance where it dictated the terms of the partnership. It seems that MCP favours an alliance where they get all and the other partners are fed with a dummy of promises of either lucrative businesses or cabinet positions in the next Government.
That suited PP which very well calculated that they could not win the elections. This was well manifested on how PP handled the alliance discussion. On paper PP wanted a UTM alliance and unsubstantiated roumours says that they pulled out after Saulos Chilima and UTM decided to backtrack from giving Joyce Banda’s son a running mate position.
This left PP with no choice but to endorse Chakwera though Joyce Banda had even submitted nomination letters.
The alliance suited MCP very well as they were the ones dictating the terms of the alliance and in control of everything. What PP did was what we call in Chichewa ‘kuthandiza amfumu kuledzera’. But hey that what MCP wanted all along.
Coming Fresh Elections
With the nullification of the 2019 Presidential elections and the impending elections in the next eighty plus days, MCP is once again in the quagmire of alliance discussions. This time around with a more and better organized Saulos Chilima and UTM.
Now that’s what makes it more interesting because both Chilima and Chakwera knows very well that they cannot beat the Team Alliance of Peter Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi single handedly and need each other if they were to stand any chance of winning the coming fresh elections.
However several factors are already working against this marriage from every angle and corner.
First, its undeniable fact that both supporters of MCP and UTM want this alliance to happen, the only problem is that either side would want their President to lead. That’s a problem.
Second, MCP has a position already that any alliance will be led by its President, Chakwera. That is the challenge when you especially want to ensure that in every alliance you form you must lead and others follow.
Third, MCP expects Chilima to follow Joyce Banda and Khumbo Kachali and just endorse the alliance while allowing Chakwera to partner Sidik Mia as a running mate. That’s the fallacy of the alliance especially expecting someone like Chilima and UTM to kill their entire political career for what? Cabinet positions?
Forth, Chilima is much popular than Chakwera. This is undoubted and undisputed fact. Chakwera without MCP is nothing. Chilima without UTM is still Chilima. People voted for Chakwera because of MCP and they are likely to vote any other person who leads MCP because their loyalty is to the party.
Other voters followed Joyce Banda, Mia and Khumbo Kachali (if at all he has any influence) For Chilima, take him out of UTM, the party is finished. Majority of the voters followed the man.
With all this above, MCP must do a soul searching and realize that any alliance with UTM will only happen only if the Presidency will be either Chakwera/Chilima or Chilima/Chakwera, nothing less. Chilima and UTM cannot afford to do what Joyce Banda did. They are better organized and bigger to do that.
With the coming alliance, MCP must be ready to deal with Mia who has broken his arm to help resuscitate the party in parts of Southern region. Further the influence of Mia in MCP is such that he controls more than half of the NEC members and he financed more than half of the MPs in parliament.
That is a tricky situation and with all the money he has lost, Mia would be a surprise to expect a cabinet position from the alliance. Now that makes it a more interesting scenario
The alliance is NOT happening. If it happens then there will be termites in both MCP and UTM destroying the campaign from within. Even then, the alliance of UTM/MCP will be built on mistrust and suspicious of each other.
Then Joyce Banda and PP would also have to think of their partnership with MCP as they will have to be pushed further on the packing order of influence to MCP leadership.