The hunt for the next Vice President

…vice president likely to succeed President Chakwera, Mutharika

It is difficult being President Lazarus Chakwera or his predecessor, Professor Peter Mutharika, now. From the outside, the parties look bizarre. While the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) looks sure to lose the next election, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), after suspensions and expulsions, its key people in North and Central Regions- places it needs to win, are dumping the party every day, reducing its chances as well of winning the next election.

Who will succeed President Chakwera?

Both parties suffer from politicians with vested interests keen to protect their positions and deny newcomers or anyone ascending to any office. In DPP, Kondwani Nankhumwa gave them a perfect excuse but a political landmine. In MCP, the oldies have devised a criterion that needs to be more politically savvy- you can only get a seat if you have had a position for two years.

Instead of pulling together for elections- the two parties are now facing civil war.

DPP is in court already, where they have spent most of their resources, time, and money, and the MCP, if the National Executive Committee continues to play the same exclusion gimmick, the courts will likely be dragged in to pronounce on a political matter that can be addressed simply by allowing everyone to compete. That is what is called democracy.

Seven want to be Vice Presidents in MCP, unknown in DPP

The convention dates, July for the DPP and August for the MCP have triggered massive campaigning among those interested in positions, especially those of the Vice President. Both parties will have two veeps- first and second, with the first vice president being the most sought prize.

As reported earlier- in MCP, up to seven have expressed interest or are running underground campaigns to become second in command of President Chakwera, and media teams are now in overdrive.

From the NEC meeting, the MCP battle has now moved to the digital platforms, district committees and other convention delegates. Aspirants such as Engineer Vitumbiko Mumba and Ken Zikhale Ng’oma are distributing motorcycles and bicycles to convention delegates.

The broken tie, Nankhumwa lost it ti be the next VP for DPP

The central team of Speaker Catherine Gotani NyaHara, supported by party heavyweights such as Secretary General Eisenhower Mkaka and Director of Youth Richard Chimwendo, are said to be calling favours among the District Chairmen and other key voters to support them.

Leading the potential candidate race

Moses Kunkuyu, Information Minister and Campaign Director, has been busy building his support mainly in the Southern Region, where three other candidates- Brown James Mpinganjira, Abida Mia (not confirmed), and Dasu are likely to battle out for the position.

On paper- if Mumba and Mpinganjira are successfully blocked, a rebellious vote could propel Zikhale Ng’oma or Moses Kunkuyu to the covet first Vice President post, and such a rebellion and unity of the disgruntled could see the old gurus in Gotani NyaHara’a camp all lose their seats. This scenario will mean an end to their political ambition.

An open contest with crowded names will mainly eat the rebels and newcomers’ camps- favouring the incumbent. That is why our analysts say the decision to bar newcomers would boomerang in their faces.

Potential candidate

For the DPP, after Professor Mutharika’s declaration that he will be seeking to return to Sanjika Palace, the battle has also moved to the position of Vice President. Still, nobody is forthcoming as in the ruling party- leading to speculation that former President Mutharika’s declaration could be a smoke screen.

The party out in the wilderness since its administration crumbled in June 2020 is attempting to make a comeback through the same Mutharika, whose popularity is being buoyed by the poor performance of President Chakwera and company.

However, the pack that made the DPP an unpopular brand remains, and party members jostling for seats at the front with assorted names that are not too popular even within the party ranks would weaken the campaign of the former President. He needs to rebrand and refresh his troops.

Five people, now four (since Kondwani Nankhumwa was expelled), had set themselves to run for the presidency. The four are former Secretary to the President and Cabinet Bright Msaka, now a legislator for Machinga Lukwenu, former Minister of Finance Joseph Mwanamvenkha, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, Dr Dalitso Kabambe and businessman Paul Gadama.

If Mutharika runs, as announced, only Msaka and Gadama would likely be made First Vice President to spread the regional balance within the political party as both Kabambe and Mwanamvenkha come from the same political region as Mutharika.

Initially, you, youthful Alfred Gangata- now Vice President for Central Region, Veep North Jappie Mhango and Ephraim Mganda Chiume, who has since defected to MCP, were aspirants for Vice President. The changes likely impact those vying for the first vice president.

Vice Presidency could be the ticket to the presidency in 2030

Malawi is about to witness a political war declared from different podiums as prominent politicians seek to become leaders through the vice presidency. The one to become vice president for the MCP or DPP will likely have a head start for the 2030 elections unless another strong alliance is born.

To hear the incumbent and former ministers both in MCP and DPP so sharply decry the present socio-economic situation that has left Malawians poorer, you would be confused to learn that they either have been part or they had been the party of government for most of the past decade.

Within the DPP, Msaka, Kabambe, Mwanamvenkha, and even Kondwani Nankhumwa had all been part of the previous administration, and their work will likely be to convince the party and national sceptics that they would do things differently than when last in power.

For the MCP, the Speaker Gotani NyaHara, Kunkuyu, Mrs Mia, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma and BJ Mpinganjira are old names that will likely not escape the scrutiny of their performance in respective roles, especially now as things seem to be going south.

It would be an exciting play if Gotani NyaHara, Zikhale, Kunkuyu, or Mias succeeded. The MCP will likely wish to have someone from its stronghold in the Central Region to head it in 2030, whilst the DPP would like to maintain its presidency within its strongholds.

The real power of the next vice president for the DPP and MCP would be the ones who will propel the winner to office. An option of a politically weaker candidate would likely be the outcome of the MCP and DPP conventions. Many are looking for an Everton Chimulilenji type of vice president who will go away quietly when succession time comes.

The bid for the Vice Presidency could be the ticket to the presidency. Still, it could also mean a brutal path as the public shows dissatisfaction with a host of policies – from cheap fertiliser, free school, million jobs and many other promises that have been made and turned into hot air balloons after they are elected to office.

Other Vice Presidents, alliance partners

The other untapped Vice President is UDF presumptive candidate Atupele Muluzi, whose primary challenge has been playing in the shadows of others that his party has been losing following with each election. He needs a total overhaul and fresh start for the UDF to make a mark, as most of his freshmen parliamentarians managed to win in Ndirande, Lunzu, Chikwawa and Nkhotakota, showing the party had potential, with suitable candidates, to regrow itself from the current decline.

The fourth largest party by number of parliamentarians, the Peoples Party is taking time to reorganise its structures and with its Secretary General

Other names- that could come from an alliance include UTM Secretary General Patricia Kaliati, former Vice President who formed Freedom Party Khumbo Kachali and another one-term Vice President, Cassim Chilumpha, who heads the ADD party.

Abida (second from right)can she be the next VP?

Kachali comes from Mzimba, the largest voting bloc, but he needs to build his party presence to attract the attention of other parties. His name has been suggested in both MCP and DPP, while Chilumpha is said to be in talks with smaller parties for another attempt to form a coalition.

Parties like Alliance for Democracy Enock Chihana and his relation Yeremiah Chihana, new players like Frank Mwenefumbo with his National Development Party (NDP) and silent figures like former Speakers Henry Chimunthu Banda and Richard Msowoya, prominent Malawians including- despite denials, Thom Mpinganjira and Rosemary Mkandawire among others.

The MCP and DPP will have to manage the vice president’s fight

A long, drawn-out fight will make the two parties look like tomatoes and reduce their chances for election as rebellious MPs, restive members if an embattled, hapless vice president who lacks a mandate from either the party membership or public opinion is elected.

Interfering in the electoral process will cause the parties more damage than allowing an open contest to see people elect someone of their choice.

The Investigator Magazine monthly polls show that MCP and DPP cannot get 50 +1, and UTM President Chilima is catching up with MCP numbers. Without a landslide, a catastrophe awaits both parties- small parties could form an alliance if one becomes number two and force a rerun.

That could see both parties out of government for too long just by electing a mistake vice president. The team will decide the election rather than an individual leader.

For MCP and DPP, there seems to be no end to press briefings, leaks, and rumours about a plot to dislodge, block, or expel each other. The fight could worsen and cause the parties to lose the 2025 elections.

But not everyone agrees.

The question is not if but when and how badly the DPP or MCP will lose – and, crucially, what comes next with the elected vice president. The battle for the vice presidency will be the struggle for the parties to regain what they lost- leadership and their way with the voters.

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