Malawi: Ruling Party Partners with Opposition Party Ahead of Fresh Elections

Malawi’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) formed an electoral alliance Tuesday ahead of elections in May. Observers say the goal is to achieve more than 50 percent of the total votes required for the winner.

The action is being taken a day after parliament set May 19 as the date for fresh presidential elections, and after a constitutional court nullified last May’s ballot results, which incumbent President Peter Mutharika narrowly won.

In his short speech during a signing ceremony in the capital, Lilongwe, Tuesday, Mutharika said the partnership comes because both parties hold similar values.

“We are both democratic, peaceful and development-orientated parties. We share similar aspirations to improve living standards of all Malawians in this country. We are all determined to achieve this,” he said.

Mutharika said the two parties are also considering joining a coalition. “And our goal is to unite and develop this country. God bless alliance; God bless Malawi,” he said.

UDF leader Atupele Muluzi previously served as Cabinet minister in a DPP administration.

He came fourth in the May election, taking about 5 percent of the vote.

Vice President Saulos Chilima, of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) Party, was third, with 20 percent, while Lazarus Chakwera, of Malawi Congress Party, was second with 35 percent of the vote.

Chakwera and Chilima challenged the results in court, alleging massive irregularities.

The UDF’s Muluzi said the partnership with the ruling DPP follows a number of discussions he had with President Mutharika.

“There is an African proverb that says, 'If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.' It is therefore in that spirit, that I have set aside my personal ambition in favor of serving Malawi as part of a more comprehensive team,” he said.

Analysts say the alliance makes Muluzi a potential running mate for Mutharika for the coming election.

Sherrif Kaisi, who teaches political science at Blantyre International University, said an alliance is the only option for political parties, which want to win with more than 50 percent of the vote.

“We have [political] parties that would say, ‘No I am going alone,’ there is no question about that. But the question is - you going to win? Even in the just passed election, which was contested, you will see that no one even came close to that 50 [percent of the vote]. We are saying there [is] no single party in the country that would win 50+1,” said Kaisi.

UTM leader Chilima told a rally Sunday that he will communicate soon, once his party decides to partner with another group.

Chilima was reacting to local media reports that the party is considering partnering with the opposition Malawi Congress Party for the fresh polls.

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