One day, Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM) will no longer be president of the country and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). After serving his two terms as president of the country, he will have to give way and it will mean at the party as well. It sounds like it is far ahead. If the party will win the 2019 general elections, the time is six years from now, and if it does not, it is a year from now.
The coming in of APM as leader of the party after the death of his brother in 2012, President Bingu wa Mutharika, was yet another episode of blood leadership transfer after that of President Bakili Muluzi to his son, Atupele. But the party was desperately in need of rebuilding then. There was no any other name apart from that of APM. He was already poised and being campaigned for to take over his brother in 2014.
He was a natural choice and the party got it right when it managed to come from the opposition ranks to claim power at the expense of the then ruling People’s Party (PP). His performance as President has no much effect on him as a party leader. Even so, he remains the only prominent face inside the party. The Vice President, Saulosi Chilima, is yet to be counted as one of the blue camp. When he was picked for the running mate position in 2013, he was completely outside the party and politics.
During the past four years, there has not been much of him a party member. This means that when it was for him to be the likely successor of APM, he is just like all other party members. He too is wondering what the future holds. But the party still needs some reflection time and make a plan of how it will move on from APM. The president is its life and blood and they were his resources and connections that made sure power was achieved.
If it eternally relies on him, the case will be like that of the former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF); building the entire future and direction on an aging man who had outlived his political welcome. But DPP has one major detrimental problem: It is yet to survive a major intra-party shock. President Bingu wa Mutharika dominated the affairs and did not take time tolerating dissenting voices whenever they showed up in the party. APM has had a different tenure. It has all been a justice of peace for him as a party leader. The reason is that the party is comfortable with him to the extent that it is forgetting that he too is a political mortal.
Unlike its main rival, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), DPP is a closed party and protects itself in a way that suppresses its growth. He remains the outright candidate and winner as the party will be seeking its candidate for 2019 general elections. Its system is highly controlled to the extent that the one voice emerging from it is artificial. There are ambitions inside it, but they cannot come out choosing to protect the status quo.
It will remain so if it wins the coming general elections. If the results will be otherwise, the party should expect a major free fall. At the state it is now, DPP cannot survive in the opposition. It has too many characters to tame and ambitions to be addressed. The party will only be wise if it looks at the larger picture; how it can survive the post-Mutharikas era. The comfort it has is life threatening and it may just be a matter of time before it ends into another political empire that was.