Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
The ruling Peoples Party is putting on a brave face by cheating itself that it scored a brace in last week's Mzimba double by-elections. The truth is it won one seat and lost another to an independent candidate.
Granted, Mabvuto James Kachali might have been an Orange Partner all along; he might have been cheated at the PP primaries and he might have officially joined the ruling party soon after his electoral triumph. But the fact is: PP had Aram Beza as its official candidate in Mzimba Central and campaigned heavily for him; Mabvuto James Kachali stood and won as an independent candidate, full-stop!
The Mzimba by-elections should therefore be a big lesson for PP and a big wake up call for its nemesis, the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The DPP is, of course, the biggest loser in these elections, not figures-wise but politically. We will come back to this a little bit later.
I say these elections are a big lesson to the ruling party for a number of reasons. Firstly, as the incumbent party in government the two polls should have been a walk-over for PP. The party pulled all the stops to ensure victory. Cabinet ministers literally camped in the area, complete with public resources et al. To boot, President Joyce Banda sealed the campaign with pomp and ceremony, with the public media in tow to drum up the event.
But somehow for all its troubles the ruling party could only cart home 50 per cent of the ultimate result. If truth be told, this does not justify the investment the party pooled in Mzimba.
There could be several extrapolations for this but chief among them is the cancer that seems malignant in almost all politicians: botched primaries. National leaders always have preferred candidates who may not always be the grassroots people's choices. They somehow make sure these 'chosen few' sail through the primaries at all costs.
But people are clever these days. Gone are the days when people used to vote for party colours regardless. Nowadays people vote for characteristics of individual candidates. Former president Bakili Muluzi learnt the hard way when the UDF harvested a large per capita of independents the other election year. One would ordinary think that other parties would learn from Muluzi's woos but there is a syndrome among politicians that somehow prevent them from learning lessons from others.
Secondly, the PP might also have not packaged its message well. Instead of telling the voters why they should vote for PP candidates leaders wasted time recounting how Bingu abused Abiti. She is now the President of the Republic of Malawi for crying out loud! People are now looking up to her for solutions, not lessons in oral history. After all, Bingu is dead and gone for good.
The PP politburo must go back to the drawing board and take a hard look at itself. For a party that came to power with the goodwill of almost everyone to fail to win two seats is not a good omen for things to come. Bingu's DPP faced a similar challenge when he eloped with government after selling Muluzi and the UDF a dummy. His new party contested in not two, not three, but six by-elections but won them all. Bingu might have soiled his legacy eventually but we must give it to the old dude, he briefly brought a breath of fresh air into our politics.
PP might wear a brave face now but if that brave face is not spruced up with tangible strategies it might turn out to be the mask for failure come 2014.
Which brings me back to the DPP...
They say it never rains, it pours...yes, it does for the DPP. Straight from spectacularly losing two seats in a region Harry Mkandawire famously cheekily dubbed "home of the DPP", the former ruling party lost one of its few sober voices. When everybody else had lost their heads and behaved like headless chicken in those mad three days in April, Elias Wakuda Kamanga was the party's only voice of reason. When everyone else was in denial that their leader had died Wakuda asked for forgiveness "for all the transgressions we visited on Malawians when we were in the comfort of government".
For Wakuda to quit when the party is still smarting from its miserable showing in Mzimba is a big blow of unimaginable proportions for the DPP. Add to that the recent announcement by DPP First Vice-President Goodall Gondwe that he was quitting active politics. It never rains, indeed; it pours for the DPP.
Like the PP, the DPP must go back to its drawing board and re-strategise. It might be high time the party truly lived its name: democratic and progressive. By practising its 'democratic' credentials the party should consider letting democracy prevail in the party. By espousing its 'progressive' nature the DPP wish might consider letting go the belief that some names are synonymous to the party.
If the status quo continues in the party we might as well devise an epitaph on its grave: "Here Lieth A Once Upon A Great Party That Let Its Phenomenal Success Choke It To An Early Death".
© The Marai Post 2012.