…Mutharika tops, Chilima follows
…his leadership is uninspiring- voters
President Lazarus Chakwera and most of his Cabinet Ministers would lose their positions if elections were held today. The Investigator Magazine poll summing up our monthly polls and post-devaluation poll has been established.
Voters polled in all Malawi’s districts point out food shortages, rising cost of living, botched fertiliser programme, corruption, tribalism and that the President is “too weak” to even control his party and government and main reasons they would not vote for him.
The President is the most unpopular leader since 1964, as Kamuzu Banda polled 35% a year before election in 1993, Bakili Muluzi was at 37% in 1998, Bingu wa Mutharika was projected 60% in 2008, Joyce Banda was at 33% in 2013 and Peter Mutharika had 35% in 2018. Chakwera’s popularity is now projected at 15% almost a year before elections.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates for both Presidential and parliamentary offices stand a better chance of winning, with projected 77 seats likely to be won by a DPP candidate in Parliament, while the party does not have enough majority to win an outright 50 plus 1 majority.
Vice President Saulos Chilima is now the second most popular politician after Professor Peter Mutharika, but his party-the UTM lack of structure and presence among the grassroots could cost him again, parliamentary seats, but he is set to become a deal maker- instead of a King Maker he was in the 2020 Presidential re-run.
While The Investigator Magazine has polled constituencies as well, our reporting focuses on the presidential elections and we will subsequently be updating the opinion polls on a monthly basis from 1 March 2024 until 1 September 2025.
President Chakwera could lose all cities and 19 districts
President Lazarus Chakwera is set to join the list of one term presidents as almost all cities and municipalities and at least 19 districts in the country are unlikely to vote for him, with Thyolo, Mulanje, Karonga, Mzuzu, Ntcheu, Nsanje, Zomba and Blantyre being the worst districts where is popularity is below five percent.
He faces an uphill battle if elections were to be held this month as voters only in Lilongwe Rural, Dedza, Dowa and Mchinji are likely to name him their preferred candidate, with twice as many saying they would rather not vote for anyone.
DPP Leader Peter Mutharika is the most popular leader in most districts- with Thyolo, Mulanje, Phalombe, Chiradzulu, Nsanje, Balaka, Mangochi, Ntcheu and Chitipa being places where he is likely to achieve 50 plus 1 but would not get a national overall across the country if he confirms he will be the party’s national bearer. Others prefer a new candidate for the DPP.
Reverend Chakwera who won the June 2020 elections with close to 60 percent now has to go into September 16, 2025, elections knowing that most Malawians do not like his leadership style and his growing unpopularity is evident as he has had to abandon using the road and opts to fly as angry citizens block or boo his convoys.
The public discontent is dominant on social media, where his posts are crowded with negative comments about his leadership while his christened “media teams” are left to defend policy U-turns every week, that they have turned into a laughingstock.
The President is largely seen as “weak and clueless” after sticking to one of the most nonperforming cabinets and scandal ridden Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba, disregarding advice from influential groups such as the Catholic Bishops and Public Affairs Committee, whose dismay of the Presidents weak leadership have been publicly pronounced.
As election fever mounts, a seat-by-seat analysis by The Investigator Magazine polling team found that Reverend Chakwera is losing to both Mutharika and his deputy Chilima by 38 percent and 26 percent respectively to 15 percent nationally.
The President is the third choice in the Southern, Eastern and Northern regions and he is shockingly second in what has been traditionally Malawi Congress Party (MCP) base where voters who were asked many said “would not vote” topped up the list in districts the President would be expected to win easily.
In the Central Region, most of the voters polled said they do not know who to vote for or they will not vote, President Chakwera came second with 21%, Peter Mutharika 18% and UTMs Saulos Chilima fourth at just 7 percent.
The high voter apathy in the region is attributed to “disappointment with ours” where most who are traditionally farmers are affected by the 400 percent hike of farm inputs since they voted for President Chakwera and his team from the promised K4499 price tag and universal fertiliser and food shortages.
High cost of living and increase in school fees are some of the issues affecting the President’s popularity in rural areas, while soaring living costs including prices of maize, transport fares, sugar, cooking oil and rentals with unmatching salaries or incomes. Small businesses cite a dwindling share of businesses as families cannot afford many things.
The only hope for Chakwera is to manage the large figures of undecided voters who are not convinced of his leadership and do not see among the current top three Mutharika, Chilima and Chakwera as their preferred President.
On aggregate, at least 20 percent of the voters would be undecided, and 10 percent are likely to swing. Only 60 percent of the voters were definite that they would vote if elections were to be held in January 2024.
The poll, accumulatively reaching about 5600 voters between October 2023 and January 2024 projects widespread dismay with most party leaders at all levels that most members of parliament, as high as 75 percent are unlikely to return to parliament.
Due to the sensitivity of some of the results, the summary contains only broad projections in terms of who will win and only Northern Region percentages are presented.
Northern Region, Presidential and Parliamentary Projections
In Chitipa 52 percent of surveyed voters indicate they would vote for Peter Mutharika and his DPP mainly for road improvement and food security, followed by Chilima at 28 percent whose challenge is mainly being “unseen” since being elected. President Chakwera will only garner less than 6 percent, with almost 15 percent of those polled being undecided or not voting.
None of the parliamentarians are projected to retain their seats in the district.
In Karonga, Chilima has an edge over Mutharika at 35 percent to 19 percent, with Chakwera lagging at 11% and one third of voters did not indicate their preferred leaders. At parliamentary level none of the incumbent parliamentarians are expected to retain their seats.
In Rumphi, Vice President Chilima gets his first 50 plus 1, at 53 percent of those surveyed and Mutharika is projected second at 14 percent followed by President Chakwera at 11 percent. Aford leader Enock Chihana debuts at fourth with 4 percent. None of the parliamentarians are projected to retain the seats save for strong showing for Rumphi West and Rumphi North MP’s.
The City of Mzuzu is likely to vote for Chilima, followed by Mutharika and Chakwera at a distant third.
Mzimba North, Mutharika is projected to win (28 percent) with Chilima (27 percent) and Chakwera at 8 percent followed by Aford’s Chihana with 2 percent. In Mzimba South, Chilima is expected to do well followed by Mutharika, Chakwera. Joyce Banda debuted in Mzimba with 3 percent of the vote share, while her former deputy Khumbo Kachali had 1.5 percent of the vote among those surveyed.
In Nkhata Bay and Likoma districts, Mutharika and his DPP will lead, followed by Chilima and Chakwera. Only 1 percent indicated they would vote for Aford.
DPP is projected to win at least 10 to 15 seats, MCP 8 seats (mainly in Mzimba and Nkhata Bay) and UTM at least 5 seats in the region. Independents are expected to dominate.
President Chakwera is projected to win with less than 30% across Salima, Dedza, Dowa, Ntchisi and Nkhotakota and his major vote in the region the MCP has dominated since return of multiparty- Lilongwe rural he will pull a decent 40 percent.
But that is where his good news ends, Reverend Chakwera is likely to lose Kasungu Municipal and Lilongwe City to Mutharika, while getting huge voters to stay away in most areas in the Central Region.
In terms of parliamentary votes, the majority of parliamentarians including Cabinet Ministers are unlikely to retain their seats. Only one Minister in Dowa and two in Lilongwe are likely to win their seats again.
The MCP is unlikely to have a single parliamentary seat in Lilongwe City despite strong showing in three new constituencies and all MPs in Mchinji, Ntchisi, Nkhotakota and Salima are unlikely going to be re-elected. Only four MPs in Lilongwe, two in Dedza, Dowa and Kasungu are likely to retain their seats.
The Investigator Magazine is not presenting the data in the Central Region as it has received advice that it could affect the actual perception of voters, consequently, affect the country’s democracy. Full report is available for sale by contacting email@example.com
Former President Mutharika, should he decide to run, he can be expected to pull votes in Mangochi, Balaka and Ntcheu in the region, followed by UDF’s Atupele Muluzi, while Chilima is at third position and Joyce Banda stands to be the fourth.
Atupele’s strong showing is in Machinga district, while Chilima polls strong parts of Mangochi Monkey Bay, Balaka-Bilira area and Ntcheu South, while Banda is polling in Zomba and parts of Machinga.
President Chakwera is at fourth position in Mangochi and Machinga, third in Zomba and second only in Balaka.
In terms of parliamentarians- at least three MPS in Machinga, two in Zomba, Balaka and only 1 in Mangochi are likely to be retained. In Ntcheu all incumbent MPs are projected to lose.
The DPP is expected to win in Chiradzulu, Phalombe, Mwanza, Neno, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Thyolo and Mulanje districts with clear majorities, but will have a close call in Blantyre City with Chilima and struggle in Zomba.
Chilima remains popular among urban voters, but not at parliamentary level.
In the Lower Shire, whilst DPP is expected to garner the majority- mainly due to disgruntlement in food and handling of Cyclone Freddy, the presence of Mrs Abida Mia in Chikwawa South area up to Bangula area gives President Chakwera some votes to enable him to have third position after Mutharika and Chilima.
Most DPP legislators, just like their MCP counterparts are unlikely to retain their seats. Only Three MPs in Mulanje, and two in Thyolo, Chikwawa and only 1 in Phalombe, Chiradzulu and Nsanje are likely to be re-elected. Mwanza, Neno and Blantyre all parliamentarians face the reality of losing their seats.
Chilima’s second chance
The polling showed a surge in Chilima’s popularity between November and January among those who had said they will not vote but this has remained at individual level- as a preferred president compared to Mutharika and Chakwera.
His continued public appearances with Chakwera and silence was cited as one of the reasons he is part of “collective failure” while people who identified as likely DPP and MCP voters highlight his ongoing case as a reason they can’t vote for.
But he seems to have attracted more disgruntled MCP voters in cities who are feeling the bite of the economy especially in cities and towns where he dominates among young voters.
However, with a good percentage now saying they are undecided or will not vote, Chilima, can build his base and tap into this group and could well get the magic to be top 2 during the elections.
Too little, too late for Chakwera
Overall, the President is now projected to have been overtaken by his Vice Chilima as his popularity rating is nationally at 15%, the lowest for any sitting leader a year before elections and he is likely to cost his party lots of seats based on food security, fertiliser and unfulfilled campaign promises.
This week, the President launched into campaign mode, inviting vendors and religious leaders in the Southern Region to dine at Sanjika Palace, the same strategy President Joyce Banda and President Bakili Muluzi had used towards the end of their terms to bolster popularity.
The President as of now, standing on his own as Malawi Congress Party (MCP) will require massive re-branding and change of the way he handles business from simple things like Cabinet Reshuffle to enforcing his own words to gain public trust.
A 55-year-old lady in one of the districts Chakwera’s base summed up the feeling, “not this one, he has failed badly in all sense” which is what most Malawians now view about President Chakwera leadership.
We will not be publishing exact figures of polling due to some sensitivity of the results mainly in the Central Region.