a By-election persepectiveBy Bright Mac Everson Malopa
Every Malawian patriot has reason to be proud of his country-men, and every Malawian lover of freedom to be satisfied with the institutions of his/her country and. In that dream every one needs love, respect and acceptance under the auspices of equal opportunities. Events following the last general elections have rendered the notion of meaningful political analysis and predictions obsolete and impotentWhile at that, I am reminding myself about the dangers of making political predictions, especially about the future. Events have a nasty habit of completely ignoring the wisdom of those who predict them.
As this is written (about a week or so after the recent by-elections which went in favor of the considered under-dogs DPP), there are many chapters of Malawian politics yet to be written.In many significant areas, with reference from the recently concluded by-elections, Anti-Bingus’s predictions were wildly incorrect. In many areas, however, Dr Wamutharika’s general approach to politics and building democracy under the auspices of good governance, fight against corruption and fiscal discipline where public resources are concerned, seems to be working spectacularly well. Similarly, many of the predictions made by his critics and bad wishers turned out to be dead wrong, while many of their concerns still seem to resonate and may yet be proven correct by events.
It is therefore safe to say that none of us commentators have been vindicated. Luckily however, events have moved along to a point where many of the predictions analysts and commentators made can now be checked for how well they matched the actual flow of events but without doubt, my predictions prophesising the doom of UDF seem to have worked wonders.Finally, and most significantly, Dr Bingus’s political critics dismissed DPP’s victory especially in the UDF’s considered strong hold “The southern region” and unlikely to succeed operationally due to the ongoing UDF insurgency.
One time handy man Mr.Ken Ng’oma advised the president not to listen to henchmen whom he accused of feeding the president with wrong information that DPP will win all seats. Mr Chakwamba went further to declare the removal of Dr Wamutharika by December while political master cheff Dr Muluzi assured UDF supporters of the four cabinet ministers quiting the government to join UDF. God knows where these four ministers are. However he got unexpected consolation from hon.
Chiwaya whom it is alleged,resigned under the influence of alcohol.As most people now realize, the recent by- elections were a tremendous success. Overall turnout was higher than turnouts in previously held by-elections Photos of joyful blue-fingered voters exalting in the democratic process were everywhere. The UDF insurgents, who had publicly vowed to prevent DPP’s successful vote, were all but powerless, as civilians reportedly voted without intimidations and violence.I have no words to express the perfomance in Nsanje. These are people whose pictures have been making headliness in the western media regarding the on going hunger epidemic.
Certainly some of them were quing on empty stomachs yet had courage to give Dr Wamutharika a thumbs up. "FOOD OR NO FOOD WE ARE FOR DPP" they might have been saying I suppose.The impact of the elections has been so powerful and appears to be in full swing. One thing I have learned from this by-election is the change in the voting paten which is often characterised by regional and tribal patronage and not convictionsOne of the peculiarities of the political system in Malawi is that it comprises three separate, regional antagonistic blocs. Any election becomes, in effect, three regional contests in which cross-community voting is insignificant.
Going by political popularity, one would expect a combination of Aford and UDF to use their perceived regional dominance as a claimed advantage to scoop 4 if not all of the contested seats.The breaking down of this regional block can be compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall in that it has apparently awakened and invigorated a pervasive desire for democracy and freedom throughout the country in the process creating a front for future political aspirants to participate or contest in political leadership positions regardless of their region of originNow that events have progressed to the point where some predictions and assumptions can be evaluated, we can see who was right and wrong, and listen for the faint sounds of the admissions of error.
Dr Wamutharika’s DPP electoral success is a reflection of the skill with which he and his administration have managed the country's domestic affairs - the economy and public services. The planning of the campaign and the delegation of authority vested in DPP’s respective constituency campaign chairmen is a classic example of how campaigns should be staged and managed.It is important to be creative when designing incentive groups for your campaign. The crucial thing is to figure out what would motivate your helpers, and encourage them to enlist new members to your meetings.
The campaign should endeavor to create a real sense of community in these meetings.Dr Muluzi used development to force people to follow his party.” IF YOU DONT VOTE FOR UDF, FORGET ABOUT DEVELOPMENT"Contrary to Dr Wamutharika, he first evenly distributes developmental programs then later reminds people of the need to give him a fair chance to develop their communities. When you engage people in your political program,they in turn own your political programDPP did this by making senior party officials but coming from the same area or district to assume positions of constituency campaign managers. This explains why Chiradzulu was led by hon Henry Mussa Zomba Thondwe with hon Joyce Banda as a leader while hon.Mia headed the Nsanje campaign.
Since these people are already known to becoming from these areas, their interaction with the locals created a sense of community and momentum.Evidence from the UDF seem to suggest the opposite.You can’t win a political campaign without momentum. With momentum campaigns roll to victory; without it they linger into defeat. It is not surprising, then, that the UDF campaign had no comprehensive plan to gain momentum, aiming their tools and strategy toward frustrating Dr Wamutharika by building this indispensable lifeblood of politics. Regrettably, UDF leadership replaced civilian basic strategy ideological broad consensus with the message of spite vengeance and impeachment against Dr Wamutharika.
UDF’s abysmal performance is without doubt a direct result of misguided leadership whose leader is Dr Muluzi.You do not examine leadership in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered while at that, it is also important to remember that the price good people pay for their indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.During UDF era elections were marred by distrust, apathy, and usually violence which in certain cases like Chiradzulu resulted into a loss of life(Charles waya) and properties (mcp vehicles) while in the Ndirande by-election, the parliamentary candidate himself (Mike Mlongoti) was abducted and unfortunately this ultimately increased the odds against the establishment/consolidation of democracy and a democratic ethos.
UDF's electoral politics assumed a do-or-die posture since it was tied to the all important question of who gets access to the state as an avenue for wealth accumulation and conferment of status, and who is kept out of that privilege.This is where UDF usually get it wrong. Instead of conducting a postmortem, they allowed their party to engage herself into useless political ponderings. Nothing wrong with that if viewed from an opponent angle since it will only marginalize the party from the public. The trouble however is that such useless ponderings become a policy.
At which point, all the energies, resources and efforts are then spent in pursuit of the said policy. We should remember that parties and elections are not ends in themselves, but as a means of serving the people. It seems to me that UDF's view is that people can only be served when in government but when a gubernatorial opportunity rose in their favour, they opted to serve themselves and not the public. This is why the public is grudgingly voted against UDF in 2004 and repeated the same in the just ended by-elections.Had it been that an objective and self constructive SWOT analysis was conducted on the UDF part, this embarrassment would have been avoid.
Instead, UDF has wasted their time on fighting Dr Muluzi's individual fight than strategizing the party into an delectable entity.They thought by appealing to the masses as a party that is being victimized through what they term "political arrests”, they will win the sympathy of the voters. The second other issue was the impeachment. The party has spent its limited resources on defending Dr Muluzi instead of changing the dented image baring signs of a personal empire by institutionalizing the party. The electoral results shows precisely how the public disliked the UDF's master policy IMPEACHMENT They did so not because they do not share the merits of leadership to be accountable but rather because they know that Impeachment" frames the issue in terms of a showdown -- an upper down vote.
This freezes the evolution of popular attitudes, and calls the question instead -- pinning the whole debate on its own stark, binary endpoint. It polarizes the body politic (and lets scandal upstage policy differences .The party did not sit down to reflect on the magnitude of the voter discontent following an embarrassing performance in the 2004 general elections. That discontent is still there and this is why six districts have acted as a focus group to convey the message in "capital lettersthus: TO HELL WITH UDF". it’s an almost golden rule ofcampaigning that you can’t campaign ‘on the issue’ – you need to select out one ‘red thread’, a critical line that runs through the issue and along which you can make change happen.
Campaign needs to be careful in planning its new idea to ensure that it is packaged in a way that is acceptable to the voters. Incentive groups and canvassing will tell the campaign if it needs to rethink the way it is presenting the idea, if the image it creates fails or if the idea is simply not exciting enough to generate momentum. The chiefs ,civil society, NGO's international community name them all,have time and again warned the UDF of this misguided approach as a yard stick to garner momentum.If UDF want to win the forth coming by-elections to be conducted in Balaka and Mangoche Malombe following the obvious expulsion of lucius chiCCIO Banda and Maxwell Millanzi, they need to stop getting obssed with Dr Wamutharika and spending their time on the above hinted tips of how to win an election.
However that can only happen if Dr Muluzi is removed from the leadership position.It would be completely retrograde move for UDF to maintain Dr Muluzi as the party's chairman as this seem to be the only safest option if the party is to exist. Continuation to put Dr Muluzi in the political picture may just incite further divisions in the party and nation at large.UDF needs reforms now through replacement of a visionary leadership good enough to modernize the party. the change in UDF leadership and their new-found unity will give the new UDF a new impetus to resolve their differences, particularly between the moderates and fresh entrants.What I am reading from all this DPP's electoral victory is a political statement from the public.
They see the DPP through Dr Wamutharika as an opportunity for Development. and ably spotted these developments as crucial elements in making parliamentary choices. The view has, at last, taken hold that greater public service investment is necessary-The opposition is increasingly isolated as they attempt to equate inputs with outcomes. Week by week, public anger grows more acute. There has rarely been a better political moment for reform than now. Malawians now know what real democracy means.They now know that elections can be conducted without rigging, intimidation and violence.
its even much safer now for any of the DPP members perceived to be in breach of section 65 to claim their seats through DPPMatter of fact, it would appear like the society is on the verge of being abandoned by they public. When they look back to the so called 10 years of freedom they also remember how the UDF created an atmosphere where divisions and rifts deepened in our people and society. We have had our fill of anger and baseless hatred. Now is the time to find common ground, and to seek out as broad a consensus as possible.
There is a deep-felt desire among the people to stand firmly together to meet the challenges of the future.For this gross error of judgement, Dr Muluzi and his UDF has been punished, his credibility seriously impaired. This message was made loud and clear on the by- election day.If lessons are not learned and appropriate measures taken to correct their current mess, UDF will be another AFORD come 2009.WANANGWA BINGU! WANANGWA MALAWIby
Bright MacEverson Malopa
the article was published in the sunday times on , 19 DECEMBER, 2005