By: Kingstone Lumbiri Binauli
President Peter Mutharika is likely to face more political upheavals than previously anticipated, but he is likely to win the 2019 presidential elections, a new country report for Malawi released by London-based Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) has suggested.
The quarterly report has also warned that Malawi’s relations with the US and other Western countries will be strained, describing Mutharika’s personal relations with the UK, US and Norway, in particular, as “tense.”
But EIU’s predictions have been received with mixed reactions by one of the country’s renowned political analyst, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Reads the report in part: “Ongoing concerns about public financial management will cause
significant chunks of aid disbursements to be delayed. Fiscal slippages have prompted the IMF to withhold disbursements under the country’s Extended Credit Facility, which will
reinforce concerns in the donor community Mutharika and the country’s major donors (the US, the UK and Norway), suggests that ties will remain strained.
Nonetheless, given the scale of the humanitarian and development challenges in Malawi, most donors will remain engaged via off-budget support to non-governmental agencies. We expect donor relations to improve slowly over the forecast period (as reflected in the rising aid inflows), although this remains contingent on the authorities implementation of public financial
The consequent tight finances, says the report, will force government to continue seeking external support from non-traditional partners, including China and India.
The EIU, however, says it bases its election projections on traditional popularity indicators that give Mutharika and his ruling party an advantage over current leader of opposition and Malawi MCP, Lazarus Chakwera. Mutharika’s edge is attributed mainly to the demographic advantage that the Southern Region has over other regions.
“The MCP and its leader, Chakwera, will campaign on a message of anti-corruption but, despite vocal attacks on the government’s record, it will struggle to offer any viable policy alternatives,” reads the report:
Nevertheless, should an economic recovery fail to take hold prior to the polls, the MCP and Chakwera stand to gain.”
The report rules out former president Joyce Banda, currently in self-imposed exile, bouncing back to power saying her popularity remains diminished by Cashgate scandal that erupted during her tenure.
However, prominent Chancellor College-based political analyst, Boniface Dulani has said
while the DPP victory prediction was a “safe bet”, the reality on the ground can rapidly change and Mutharika’s 2019 victory cannot be guaranteed.
Stated Dulani. “The parties in power always have significant election advantages due top State resources hence it’s always safe bet that the incumbent will win. However, the last report by the EIU before last elections in 2104 predicted that the then (Banda) would win and this suggest that things can always change. We are assuming a lot of things by concluding that the DPP will win, in politics things can change so quickly.”
He said if the opposition can galvanize itself and present a charismatic leader who can unite its currently fragmented parties; the opposition can upset the ruling party in 2019 just as the DPP did in 2014.
“At the moment, the opposition is divided within fighting almost in all the major opposition parties, including MCP, which has weakened the bloc. PP is suffering from having anabsent leader and this does not bode well for the opposition, but 2019 is far too far to make any predictions,” he added.
But governing DPP spokesperson and Leader of House, Francis Kasaila played down the report’s findings on the party’s governing challenges and said the fact that the economy is struggling at the moment cannot be used as a yardstick to judge the party’s whole five- year tenure.
“I would not say in 2019 we will win or not win because we are not yet there. The fact of the matter is that people are only looking at two things; the economy and the food situation but people are forgetting that there are a lot of development projects people are happy with. Again, in 2019 you cannot say there will be hunger or the economy will be struggling.
“If the report shows that even in the current situation we are likely to win then, it’s our colleagues in the opposition who should be worried. Look, we won the 2014 elections from the position of being outside government and our campaign was frustrated in a lot of ways, imagine what we can do from government,” said Kasaila.
The EIU report highlights the runaway economy which will cause a lot of resentment to Mutharika’s rule and continued strained relations with western donors as Mutharika’s.
Achilles heel and say, this will result in public dissatisfaction and unrest in the country.
“Low public confidence in the government and volatile politics will continue to distract from much-needed political and economic reform, but the country’s underlying stability is not at stake. The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the President, Peter Mutharika, to remain in power until the next general election in 2019, owing to the lack of a viable alternative that is acceptable to all political factions. However, he will struggle in his efforts to rebuild public trust in State institutions,” predicated Dulani.
He further asserted that while the report says the DPP is at an advantage because of its popularity in the populous Southern Region, it is also making inroads in the Central Region, the MCP’s stronghold.
MCP spokesperson Jessie Kabwila said the predictions of more trouble for the DPP government due to the economy which could cause instability was hardly surprising and was a vindication that the ruling party was increasingly becoming clueless on how to govern.
“These are inept and callous. They don’t care about Malawians. They are just deepening the politicisation of State resources at the expense of national development and unity,” said Kabwila.
She played down the prediction that despite the woes DPP will still win in 2019, saying the opposition has also be strategizing on winning the Southern Region.
A survey conducted by the Institute of Public Opinion and Research (IPOR) in Rumphi,
Salima and Thyolo districts on DPP’s first year in office gave Mutharika mixed rating with Ipor saying Malawians “have passed their judgements—and the judgement is mostly
negative,” Dulani, who heads IPOR was quoted as saying.
The general picture from the survey is one of negativity. Seven in 10, thus 70 percent of
respondents from the three districts, say the country is going in the wrong direction