….unpopular leader, needs to make unpopular choices
….ponders whether to run, or not
President Lazarus Chakwera is pondering whether to run or not in 2025 and his closest associates have told The Investigator Magazine that everyone realises how unpopular Malawi’s sixth President has become in the three years and six months he has been in office.
The President unpopularity has seen him stop travelling by road that he now- flies to his every destination to avoid angry Malawians who have made it a habit to jeer at his convoy and at times swear at it. His handlers have yet to tell him the truth his name is no longer among the best names to use in public spaces.
In the ending year- a video clip made round of villagers in Kasungu jeered and asked a politician to sit down for suggesting at a funeral, that death of the individual has robbed “Chakwera a vote.” That has seen many people completely avoid mentioning the Presidents name whenever they are in public.
Even in some areas in what is strongholds of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the party that the President leads.
To run or not to run
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown- Shakespear coined the phrase that has become to be known as “It is lonely at the top” and President Chakwera, just like his predecessors discover this when they sit at the State House.
Unfortunately, those that surround them, always are in for themselves. Being next to the President in Malawi, gives you power, leverage, and access to money. People have transformed overnight from having no vehicle, to owning fleet of vehicles and holidaying in worlds top resorts.
They, unfortunately lie to the President, lie so much that by end of the day the President believe in whatever they are selling and apportion blame on political rivals, even if they are failing to manage the country.
This is the position President Chakwera finds himself in. Three years in power, people he entrusted to manage most of his affairs have become rich whilst of Malawians wallow in poverty and are struggling to make a day’s meal.
As he remains with 626 days to voting day, the biggest question for the hugely unpopular leader is whether to run or not to run.
“He has had conversations with a few people about running in 2025. As of now preparations are still going on that he will run. Especially those raising money for MCP campaign. But privately, with those that are close to him, he has expressed doubts about running,” said a source close to the President.
The Investigator Magazine spoke to several people who have had conversation with the President where he has acknowledged his unpopularity and wondered how to face the next elections.
The odds against the President
The President campaigned on four main issues- cheaper fertiliser, fighting corruption, creating one million jobs, and guaranteeing better and quality life for all- through his now faded tagline- nothing for us without us.
From a very vocal leader of opposition- who faulted his predecessors long stay outside the country, through nepotism and high cost of living he blamed on “high level corruption and a failing government”, the President now looks as he was prophesising his own regime.
Food shortages and price increases are now a norm, the Malawi kwacha has become worthless, corruption scandals seem to be the main activity of his administration and to cap it all- fertiliser and one million jobs are now miles apart.
His administration has now bumped off 1.5 million beneficiaries from the AIP programme and the few that were supposed to get the commodity- can’t find it, or their names are missing, or simply some mess is affecting their access.
These are huge numbers of voters, add angry young voters who were swayed by a promise of a million jobs. The odds against the president are quite huge.
His 2025 campaign he must face the same voters and those dumped from AIP programme, apart from the one million youth who cannot be promised jobs again, the MCP campaign machinery will need a very good narrative to convince the public to give the President another five years.
Unfortunately, the MCP does not believe in outsourcing or trying professional best- it makes mistakes and make more mistakes.
The 50 plus 1 challenge
The poll figures shows MCP can only marshal around 30 percent of the vote in 2025 according to our polling in mid-2023 and with devaluation, fertiliser and food shortages the figure could be as low as 20% at the start of 2024.
The 50 plus 1 voting system now works to the great disadvantage of President Chakwera’s ambition for another term. He needs a strong alliance partner to reach to the coveted figure. Most of his base is likely going to experience voter apathy as they cant vote for other parties- denying him much needed vote for re-election.
But who can trust the President well enough to accept to be his running mate outside the MCP?
Smaller parties can, but with only four parties MCP, DPP, UDF and PP having a base of number of seats in parliament and the UTM having its leader Saulos Chilima as a vote builder, these parties need to trust each other to form an alliance.
The lack of vibrancy and mistrust within the Tonse Alliance makes the MCP a very suspicious partner, that the President could have difficulties to get a popular and established running mate.
Running mates will matter in 2025 as for both the DPP and MCP their potential candidates- former President Peter Mutharika and President Chakwera will be bidding for office for the last time, affording the running mate an opportunity to become a leading candidate in 2030 elections if their alliance wins in the next elections.
President Chakwera needs to regain trust of the political partners, if he will have to run with one of the main parties.
Options for President Chakwera
The President has very limited choice to salvage his reputation and future legacy as he is facing massive defeat at the next election. The first is to stop listening to his handlers who assure him everything is okay- he needs a new set of handlers.
Once he gets a team to tell him the truth, he needs to face reality, and list priorities that he can achieve in the remaining 626 days of his regime before elections. Otherwise, a few roads in Lilongwe do not count much in other regions struggling to get a meal a day.
The President needs to start making serious decisions, even those unpopular within his party, that can help him regain the trust of the electorate, who many think is clueless and has no idea how to fix anything.
Lastly, he needs to learn to act in time, decisively and in the interest of the public. Only when he acts in public interest- will the public side with him, and perhaps vote for him.
If not, the President will learn like his predecessors- not only is it lonely at the top, but most praise singers dump you, and immediately your power is gone. He should ask Peter Mutharika, Joyce Banda and Bakili Muluzi- to trust Malawian politicians at their own peril.