‘UTM, MCP 2025 Presidential elections to remingle or not?’

Its not prolonged period of time ago when Vice President, Saulos Chilima took the country’s political arena by storm dubbed the most vibrant Presidential aspirant to ever grace the nation with his vocal and mesmerizing public speeches that made him an orator in eyes and ears of multitudes Malawians.

Leading the ever red United Transformation Movement (UTM) after defecting from the then former ruling party, the embattled opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) where he served as Vice President of the country to Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika.

After being defeated in the 2019 elections , he teamed up with the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to boot out DPP from the government in the 2020 re-elections.

This came after the Court declared the 2019 elections to have been full of irregularities, frivolous and incompetences.

The two entered into an alliance dubbed ‘Tonse Alliance’ with some other 7 parties forming the ruling current administration.

Together with Lazarus Chakwera, they managed to win the 2020 re-elections and to the suprise of many, he again resolved to run as running mate and became the Country’s Vice President for the second term .

But he is someone who has had a huge following country wide and has this aspiration of running for Presidency .

Claims have surfaced stating that he had an agreement with President Lazarus Chakwera for the both to run a term each. Meaning to say that Since President Chakwera has exhausted his term of office , it is time for him to run for Presidency.

Despite this some MCP members have been clearly stated openly that Dr Lazarus Chakwera is there Candidate in the upcoming 2025 Elections. Are they breaching the agreement?

With time going and the country preparing to go for polls in 2025 , People have been asking , is Chilima eligible to Contest as President as per law?

Since he has served his maximum two terms as vice president he is not eligible to stand for presidency.

This is according to the 2009 Constitutional Court which comprised Justice Twea, Justice Potani and Justice Dr. Mtambo.

In an interview with a legal scholar from the University of Malawi-UNIMA, Holisi Brues said the Malawi Constitution does not explicitly stipulate that.

He said: “This is where the jurisdiction of the Constitutional court comes into play.

“Whenever there are contradicting interpretations of the Malawi Constitution, the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court is mandated to provide a formal interpretation of the same.”

The law indeed bars Saulos Chilima from standing for presidency and, what if Vice President decides to resign now, is he still ineligible to stand for presidency in 2025?

Another legal scholar, Grace Phiri from the university of Malawi responded unfortunately, he is still not eligible for presidency because once he was elected in 2020, he was serving his last term, Chilima’s term.

She said anyone who comes in to assume the vice presidency will be serving the Chilima’s second term. This is why, in this scenario, Chilima’s care-taker will still be eligible for another two terms in the presidency.

Fortunately, there are a myriad of options which Chilima can decide to follow.

Chilima can lobby the Cabinet and the National Assembly to deliberate a bill that will change the Malawi Constitution so that it explicitly stipulates that any vice president who has served his maximum two terms is eligible to stand for presidency. This is not easy since two-thirds majority is required in the National Assembly to change the Malawi Constitution.

She said Chilima can also motivate the Executive arm of Government and the National Assembly to call for National Referendum to change the Constitution in his fair. This is practically difficult as it would look like the whole nation is vesting its interest in a single individual.

But previously, the Secretary General of UTM Patricia Kaliati announced UTM will soon come out to inform Malawian on whether it remains in Tonse Alliance or not.

This came as Malawi Congress Party-MCP and UTM have not held any discussions after the latter’s leader, Dr. Saulos Chilima told the nation in an emotional press briefing in July 2022 that he would be the Alliance’s torchbearer during the 2025 general elections.

Chilima said their Political Alliance Agreement was for 10 years, in which both President Lazarus Chakwera and himself are expected to support each other to lead for one-term.

“That subject to the decision of the national executive committees or conventions, as the case may be, of the UTM and the Malawi Congress Party, the presidential candidate during the fresh presidential election of 23 June 2020 shall not be the presidential candidate during the immediate next election and shall cede the candidacy to the running mate in the fresh presidential election of June 23 2020,” said Chilima then.

But MCP vehemently denied the existence of such a deal while pledging to produce a genuine agreement document on their partnership.

Its former spokesperson, Reverend Maurice Munthali described the document Chilima refered to as literally fake.

“There is no such a document. That is a fake not an official document. At an appropriate time, when all alliance partners are agreeable, we will produce a genuine alliance agreement they signed for,” he said.

Our Platform Mw understands that the two parties have not met to discuss the sticky power rotation issue despite its sensitive nature to the future of the Alliance.

Early, UTM spokesperson Felix Njawala, whose party plans to hold the convention this year, told us the two sides haven’t discussed the topic after Chilima’s bold statement.

“No discussions have taken place on this matter as of now,” said Njawala in a short written response.

Njawala added they still believed firmly believe that their partner would eventually recognize that their manifesto played a crucial role in securing votes for this government.

“We seek the opportunity to actively participate in the implementation process,” he added.

The Alliance status quo is now compelling governance and political experts to begin casting doubt if the marriage will last longer.

Governance expert, Mabvuto Bamusi argues the situation signals the collapse of Tonse Alliance and the failure of the agreement which led to the formation of the grouping.

“It also signals the deepening sense of power struggle over the presidency come 2025 elections. Statements made by SKC insinuate that he was the one to be torch bearer for 2025 election for Tonse. However this has fallen apart,” said Bamusi.

He suspected that UTM would be thinking of going alone to 2025 elections but with possibilities of entering an alliance with other parties such as Democratic Progressive Party-DPP.

Added Bamusi: “These dynamics will cause intraparty instability and conflicts such as the one happening in DPP, thereby taking away attention from managing national affairs as politics will take center stage.”

He said during his address, Chilima lashed out at some Alliance members; accusing them of exuding power hungry traits “forgetting that alliance partners risked their lives to win the elections.

But he stressed that any departure from the agreement amounts to political fraud, especially on the popular will that mandated the alliance.

President Chakwera did not (and has not) comment on Chilima’s statement which also proposed removal of president’s immunity from prosecution when in power.

In his comment, political analyst Wonderful Mkhutche said UTM would be making a serious blunder not having a clear stand from its partner; saying some of their supporters voted for Chakwera on the promise that their leader would lead in 2025.

“We should admit that Saulos Chilima and UTM were key when the Tonse Alliance won the Fresh Presidential Election in June 2020. This admission is a bitter reality to UTM supporters that the campaign was built on a lie and it will be hard for the party to win back people’s trust,” said Mkhutche.

He further argued it was evident that the discussions did not go beyond winning the June 2020 election.

“As time nears the next election, we should expect open statements from UTM and MCP distancing themselves from the alliance.

“To this date, we have already seen the two parties advancing their own agenda for the 2025 election and it is just a matter of time before they formally part ways,” observed Mkhutche.

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