Over the weekend on Sunday, Atupele Muluzi, President of UDF and Minister of Health and Population delivered one of the most inspiring and politically mature speeches while he addressed the people of Machinga District. What arrested my curiosity was not just the level of political maturity, sobriety and eloquence of the speech, but mostly what I figured were clear hints on Muluzi’s readiness to partner with President Peter Mutharika in a historic DPP and UDF alliance for the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
In his speech which was mainly about the coming elections, Muluzi clearly showed that he is ready to work with Mutharika and DPP all the way through the 2019 Elections. At this point, when he should otherwise be hinting about his possible resignation from DPP to focus on his presidential ambitions, Muluzi strongly defended his involvement with the DPP administration as a Cabinet Minister. He told his supporters that it was in his quest to serve the country and practice civilized democracy that he has continued to work with the Mutharika administration. Muluzi stressed that differences in belongingness to various political parties, ethnic groups and religions should not prevent politicians from working together for the common good of the people.
With only 5 months remaining to the polls, when it is time for Muluzi to distinguish himself as a next presidential candidate to race against Mutharika, he instead told his supporters about how great his working relationship with President Mutharika continues to be. Muluzi disclosed passionately that he was a trusted Cabinet Minister and very loyal to the President who reciprocates and rewards him by delegating him to meet other world leaders on behalf of the President and Malawi government. Muluzi has no reason to praise Mutharika close to elections unless he intends to campaign for him. But presidential candidates do not campaign for each other; they campaign against each other. Muluzi was therefore clearly hinting that he won’t race against Mutharika but with Mutharika.
Furthermore, with this revelation about his smooth working relationship with Mutharika, Muluzi was also trying to tell the people of Malawi in a politically correct manner about the reason why the Vice President, Saulos Chilima failed to get along with Mutharika. By telling the nation that he is well rewarded with delegated authority, respect and trust by the President due to his faithfulness and loyalty, he was telling Malawians that instead of being faithful to duty and loyal to the President, Chilima was busy scheming against Mutharika to take over the presidency, hence, his relationship with the President fell apart. In this regard, Muluzi was telling Malawians that Mutharika is a man who rewards hard work, faithfulness and loyalty which are attributes that Chilima failed to embrace.
And finally, look at what Muluzi said about the registered votes in the Eastern Region. He told his UDF supporters that it was only their party which has more than 1 million readily available votes in the Eastern bloc following the MEC voter registration exercise results. But much as he boasted about the numbers, he did not hesitate to refer to the IPOR research report that no party will easily win the 2019 Elections alone. Why did Muluzi comfort his supporters with the good news that they had the votes, and then tell them immediately that despite their “guaranteed” votes, they can’t still win alone?
The context of his entire speech and what he said earlier about his work with the DPP administration and relationship with Mutharika, helps us understand that Muluzi was talking about the 1 million votes not to give UDF supporters hope that UDF is likely to form the next government, but to inform Malawians that UDF is still a very relevant and strong political front and one of the determining players of the outcome of 2019 elections.
Muluzi was also trying to communicate to President Mutharika, his advisors and DPP supporters that they do not have to worry about what they perhaps lost through Chilima or fear MCP because UDF has the ammunition of more than 1 million votes to bring to DPP in an electoral alliance for the “operation landslide.”
Looking at the political terrain towards the May 2019 and Muluzi’s speech, I am very confident that an electoral alliance between DPP and UDF is not only very possible, but also unbeatable. In Malawian politics, there is only one winning formula which involves developing strategy around political strongholds. The strongholds exist along consideration of ethnic groups and regional boundaries. This is the case in most African countries because there is hardly an African country in the Sub-Sahara where a voter does not first of all ask which tribe or province the presidential candidate and his party originates from before deciding to support or reject him.
With more than 1.2 million registered voters in the East and 2,037,154 in the South and Lower Shire, an electoral alliance between DPP and UDF would be unbeatable. They would easily beat MCP which is the main real threat given the 2,686,396 registered votes in the Central Region. Though the Center has the highest statistics of registered voters, the votes will be highly split between MCP, UTM and DPP. Additionally, MCP is weaker now than in 2014 given leadership challenges of Lazarus Chakwera that have disintegrated the party and frustrated loyal members.