This article in no way endorses nor celebrates the tribal pattern of voting in Malawi. It is simply an academic reflection on the reality of regional /tribal dynamics on elections in Malawi.
It is a sequel to my short Facebook Post “Post-Afrobarometer Survey Horoscope”.
The entire Facebook post is as below:
The fact that 2014 (at presidential level) was not to be the year for our role model, Hon Atupele Austin Muluzi, became obvious when he accepted to serve in the interim caretaker government. Look at this: had Atupele not been “insulted by Uladi and Co” how was he hoping to “parachute” his way out of this government?
The survey’s results, in as far as Hon Atupele is concerned, should encourage him to start doing his homework for 2019 even today. He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.
For the public wondering where all the money has been coming from, be thankful that these funds – from wherever – have now been released to circulate in our tiny economy.
The beauty of multi-party democracy is that it is only when people are trying to get back power that you get a sense of how much they are really worth – thanks to your and yours truly’s taxes. Unless of course someone wants to tell me that the Bashir rumour is true.”
This post, followed validation by the result of the much talked about Survey by Afrobarometer of an intuitive observation I noted way back, when presidential running mates were announced.
Rather than talk “statistics” attention is on the tribal dynamics of Malawi elections and politics and how leaders, cunningly or unthinkingly play tribal cards for discernible and not so obvious personal interests, with none the wiser.
From 23 March to 7 April 2014, Afrobarometer conducted a survey of public attitudes on democracy and governance in Malawi. The nationally representative sample of 2400 adult Malawians was selected to represent all adult citizens of voting age; a sample of this size yields a margin of sampling error of +/-2% at a 95% confidence level.
The sample was drawn randomly based on probability proportionate to population size (PPPS), thus taking account of population distributions across regions, rural-urban location, and gender.
The sampling process ensures that every adult Malawian citizen has an equal and known chance of being selected in the sample. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in the language of the respondents’ choice. Previous Afrobarometer surveys have been conducted in Malawi in 1999 (Round 1), 2003 (Round 2), 2005 (Round 3), 2008 (Round 4) and 2012 (Round 5).
Some results from the Round 5 (2012) survey (also with a sample size of 2400) are also reported in this brief.
In short, the survey says while 15% of the respondents did not commit or reveal their preference, 27% said they will vote for Democratic progressive Party (DPP)’s Prof Peter Mutharika; 21% indicated that they would vote for Malawi Congress Party (MCP)’s Dr Lazarus Chakwera; 19% responded that they would vote for Pres. Joyce Banda’s Peoples Party (PP) and 14% (a percent shy of those that did not commit) preferred Atupele Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF).
Soft issues not captured by the survey:
There is something around the top three candidates who as per the Afrobarometer, have an inside chance of winning on May 20 which has not been captured in the survey. The survey was, of course, not intended to surface this element.
Let us begin our discourse with pure facts. It is a fact that:
- May 20, 2014 (presidential level) elections are a do or die affair for Prof Peter Mutharika. No-one in their right mind would call the professor a “young man” and contesting, again, in 2019 is definitely not something he is relishing or looking forward to.
- Thanks to cash-gate and other indiscretions, the prospect of losing on May 20 is sending Maula-shivers down the spine of Pres. Joyce Banda. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Maula does have a wing for errant women. Another fact is that while Dr Chakwera will pursue cash-gate if he wins; Prof Mutharika will pursue the cash-gaters with an unmitigated vengeance, among other things, to clear his late brother’s name often accused of originating cash-gate by the Pres. Joyce Banda administration.
- From what has been written, read, seen and heard so far, Dr Lazarus Chakwera seems to be the only candidate among the top three approaching May 20 without grudges.
From an undecided voter’s perspective (the 15% in the survey), the facts above should raise two pertinent questions:
- Does wanting something (a presidency) for reasons bordering on desperation necessarily make one the best candidate and hence worth voting for? Has desperation ever meant that someone will deliver on their promises and on good governance?
- Does the fact that one has no “axe to grind’” imply that people should trust them 101%? What more should this person do or say?
The responses and subsequent votes, depend on what a person wants for Malawi in five years’ time.
Between a rock and a hard place:
And this is how to humanly ensure that if they do not win, it is Dr Chakwera – the man without the grudge – who wins.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is where everything gets ingeniously and primitively tribal, it so obvious yet so obscured as only happens when two grand-masters face each other on a chess table.
Prof Peter Mutharika’s way out
Prof Peter Mutharika did this knowing very well that Ntcheu, though a swing district, has never voted for the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) any way.
Therefore, while by his choice of running mate Prof Peter Mutharika sort of ‘secured’ the Ntcheu vote, in no way did he infringe on Dr Lazarus Chakwera’s Chewa territory and seeming advantage should voting follow tribal patterns.
Holding all things constant, assuming that Dr Lazarus Chakwera protects the traditional central base of the MCP, if Prof Peter Mutharika fails to win, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, wins.
In case I have lost some readers, allow me to paraphrase this. Prof Peter Mutharika’s choice of running mate is intended to serve two ends:
- it gives his DPP the Ntcheu swing vote,
- without reducing Dr Lazarus Chakwera’s chances by eating into the Chewa territory, save as needed.
Pres. Joyce Banda’s response to the Professor’s move:
Pres. Joyce Banda, after everything has been said and done, is not daft. Equal to the task, she also crafted a way to ensure that if she does not win, the scale should weigh in favour of Dr Lazarus Chakwera, and not Prof Peter Mutharika and his DPP.
She picked the most hopeless Chewa she could find as a running mate. Mr. Sosten Gwengwe, with due respect, is from the perspective of a pure Chewa, the triple-recycled politician that Chewas hold in contempt.
In a space of five years, the young man has entwined himself with three political parties. To drive this point home, be reminded that Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba has never made it back to parliament after evolving into a recycling raw material, same with Binton Kuntsaira, Ted Kalebe and many hitherto heavy weights that dared being reprocessed.
Therefore, despite knowing that this could cost her, she let Dr Lazarus Chakwera have the “advantage” if anything to ensure that in the event that she fails, comes second or even third, Dr Lazarus Chakwera has a clear run over DPP in his central base.
In fact Pres. Joyce Banda, the prototypical cunning politician, doubled her investment in the Chakwera race.
She went to the extent of risking the ire and (already ‘prophesied’) exit of vice president Khumbo Kachali from her PP by sidelining him for an inconsequential running mate of Gwengwe’s caliber.
Vice president Khumbo Kachali, his weaknesses aside, could have arguably made the going tougher up north for Dr Chakwera – a fact that was not lost on Pres. Joyce Banda.
But Pres. Joyce Banda seeking a double insurance, more or less donated the Tumbuka vote to Dr Chakwera via Richard Msowoya and Mrs. Chakwera (reportedly a NyaGondwe). Her message to Dr. Chakwera was:
Abusa, I could not do better than this. The presidency is yours – grab it. Lose it, and get ready to come say prayers for me at Maula. Ndatha ine wanu.”
Dr Chakwera is neither senile nor too young a man not to have figured out the fact that Atupele Muluzi, as per the Afrobarometer Survey, was never really in the race, and that both Prof Peter Mutharika and Pres. Joyce Banda, if push comes to shove, consider him the lesser evil.
What I cannot say is if he realizes that the two candidates’ choices of running mates were skewed in his favour unlike Atupele Muluzi’s, which was a direct hit meant to cause havoc in his backyard. Both Prof Mutharika and Pres. Joyce Banda were practically – in their choice of running mates – trying to outdo each other in easing the race for Dr Lazarus Chakwera.
A couple of questions I would love well thought responses to are: Does Dr Chakwera have the mettle to make the most of this? Did the above ever cross your mind?
Is it possible that both Pres. Joyce Banda and Prof Mutharika picked their running mates oblivious to the obvious advantage(s) they freely bequeathed Dr Lazarus Chakwera?
Before resting my case, the bottom line is that this election, as has often been said by the Muckraker, is for Dr Lazarus Chakwera to lose.
If Dr Lazarus Chakwera does lose it, that’s the end of his presidential dream because in 2019, Atupele Muluzi will be breathing fire, Saulos Chilima will have consolidated his hold on DPP and what’s more; both Prof Peter Mutharika’s and Pres. Joyce Banda’s well concealed assistance will be nowhere in play.
By the way, and perhaps more poignantly, was the choice of running mates intended to assist Dr Lazarus Chakwera or was this just the run of the mill, poorly thought out, ill-advised and myopic strategy formulation which characterize Malawi politics?
Now, I rest.