The formula for winning Presidential elections with at least 50%+1 in Malawi is very clear and simple to grasp. We can all appreciate this formula by analyzing the 67% victory of Bingu in the 2009 elections against the trend of all other elections before and after the historic landslide.
Let us start with the trend of how candidates and parties have been winning elections in the past 25 years. In 1994, the winning candidate, Dr Bakili Muluzi of UDF won with 47% of the national votes. In 1999, Dr Bakili muluzi won again with arguably 52% and in 2004, Bingu won with about 35%. After the 2009 landslide, DPP won the 2014 elections with 36% and won the nullified 2019 elections with 38% of national votes.
The trend shows that under normal circumstance, you would expect a winning candidate to get 43% of the national votes. That is when you calculate the average percentage of all the results from 1994 until 2019 save for the 2009 which is an exception. Actually, the average is only pushed up because of the 1999 results, otherwise the 2004 to 2019 results shows that the winner in Malawi is expected to get between 35% and 40% of the nation votes.
Now this takes us to two crucial questions: (1). what causes the trend of previous and projected results to persistently stay within the range of 35% to 40% or rather to average 43 % of national votes? (2). How did Bingu break the record and reach above 65% of the national votes which was close to twice as much as the expected range? My answers to these questions unveils the winning formula for landslide victory in the event of 50%+1 electoral system or even otherwise.
My answer to the first question is that since candidates and parties rely on tribes and regions to amass votes, winners have always succeeded with loyal votes. Winners from 1994 to 2019 all come from the same region and they win with a fixed range of percentage because a regional stronghold can only produce a certain limited and predictable range of loyal votes. As a result, it is guaranteed that if a candidate banks their hope of victory on the strength of political stronghold, they can expect to get between 35% and 40% of the national votes. As a result, stronghold politics confines expected results to a certain range and can never secure landslide or 50%+1 of votes.
This takes us to the second question about how Bingu pulled the surprise. When you look at the results of 2009, you will notice that the real surprise is not in the aggregate national votes that Bingu got but the regional votes. Bingu surprisingly got 95% of all Northern votes which even the greatest political giant of the North, ever, Chakufwa Chihana failed to get. The highest he reached was 88%. Upon getting 95% from the North, Bingu got 53% from the Central Region beating MCP in their own powerbase and got 68% of the Southern votes.
The above brief analysis shows that in order to beat the 50%+1 system and secure a possible landslide victory, a political candidate and party need to get both, the loyal (stronghold) votes and the popular votes as well. It is clearly observable that on top of stronghold votes, Bingu had amassed additional 30% or thereabout of votes which came from his popularity and public confidence in his leadership that swung undecided and intelligent voters to his side.
The popular votes come from the swinging bloc which is the Northern Region and from intelligent voters spread across the country especially in urban centers. The Northern Region comprises of voters who massively swing to one candidate at one time and to another candidate at another time. Northerners have no loyalty to anybody only to their own self-awareness of what’s best for their region at a particular point in time. The urban centers comprises of intelligent voters who swing because they can rationalize political messages and assess the leadership potential of a candidate before voting for them.
Now, with this understanding, the only candidate and party that can win the possibly coming fresh elections on May 19 are those that can be able to secure both, loyal (regional) votes and the popular votes. A candidate qualifies to amass the popular votes if the public has confidence in his or her leadership capabilities. Acquisition of popular votes enables a candidate to sail beyond regional and tribal barrier.
Therefore, as it stands, facts prove that DPP and MCP have substantial regional votes but that cannot take them beyond 50%. Those votes can only take Chakwera and Mutharika as far as around 40%. But they need the popular votes which are more than 1 million and Chilima of UTM is the one holding those votes. The party that gets Chilima gets the popular votes and crosses the 50%+1 line and might scale as high as the 2009 landslide of Bingu. That is why I had declared that the DPP and UDF alliance was meaningless and devoid of strategy because Atupele does not hold the needed popular votes which would enable DPP cross 50%. If Chilima was not around, Atupele would have been the real deal, but Chilima overshadows him.
I advise that MCP must not fail to get Chilima at any cost. He has the needed popular votes. If Chilima contests alone, it is MCP that will suffer more. DPP will have an upper hand.