Recently, young politician Atupele Muluzi, has sent tongues wagging because of his election as UDF National Chair (now President), resignation from cabinet, his party's flip flopping in parliament and his Njamba rally where reports indicate that the patrons likened him to US President Barack Obama.
I am still not sure on what basis are the two being tipped towards comparison. If it is the "Change" factor then Obama used that banner in 2008 and he hasn't brought the change during his first term (besides the drones pounding Pakistan and Somalia)
I will not dwell much on Obama but I would like to let off a few issues in regards to Atupele's Presidential bid. I have heard so many times people saying Atupele is going to give all Presidential candidates a headache.
I simply beg to differ.
I think that opposition parties, not Joyce Banda and her government, should be the ones scared with Atupele.
Anywhere in the world, opposition political parties promise to offer solutions to the problems taking place while they are outside of government. I am yet to see a political party that will tell people how they will sort out problems that might arise after they have gone into government. They all work on the template of the serving President.
For years, John Tembo has been offering the provision of check and balances to several regimes but the coming in of DPP and a reorganized UDF has shrunk the opposition space.
So as things stand, MCP, UDF and DPP are fighting for some virtual prominence in a permanent space which doesn't change.
These parties must show admirable potential in handling issues in that space if they are to convince the electorate about their capabilities to run a government. For sure these competencies cannot be displayed through fighting the government of the day. Ask John Tembo when he fought Bingu between 2006 and 2009. What he got was shrinking popularity and a dismal performance at the 2009 polls.
The demographics of our electorate is an enigma yet predictable. Those who rely on the votes from cities and urban centres end up being disappointed. Only Muluzi's first go at the elections in 1994 and Bingu's re-election in 2009 were the only times when the urban vote leaned towards a winning candidate.
Njamba, Masintha and Katoto rallies can no longer be used as a barometer of electoral success.
There is more to Malawian politics; the rural masses.
These are the people who hold the key to determine the winner in any election. They live simple lives and they need simple policies. Good water, shelter, food, security, education, good health and other supporting factors.
Don't just tell them to embrace an Agenda for Change, they need to know how different and better it is from the amenities they are already enjoying.
Don't just tell them not to vote for a President because she is a woman, they need to know what is it that men have done better than women (if any).
Don't just tell them that Joyce Banda should stop giving them maize flour, tell them how you would solve a similar crisis if you were in government. In trying to answer those questions, many opposition parties will end up exposing void reasoning hence losing the trust of the electorate.
Don't boast to rural masses that you will use helicopters during your campaign, that is not what fascinates them. By the way choppers have never influenced the voting pattern of any democracy?
The opposition bloc thinks by exploiting Joyce Banda's predicament they will score substantial votes though they have full knowledge that the State President is dealing with an extension of problems from the previous regime.
They are busy defining their political activity in reaction to what the government is doing; not what the citizenry wants. This puts them at liberty to despise the incumbent even if she doing the right thing and the poor masses take notice of such politicking.
So, if the President distributes flour to the masses, the opposition is reacting by telling her to slow down because she is blowing away government money through her travels. This kind of selective perception puzzles the very poor that are being helped by the President's gesture.
The poor will end up wondering whether the opposition parties are not concerned with their welfare. From a poor man's perspective, having a bag of flour in their house is much more important than balancing up the financial books at Capital Hill.
There is nothing wrong for Joyce Banda to travel and execute her duties as Head of State. If the travels are a means to help the poor, then things are in order. People in the cities make noise when poor people are benefiting but they don't groan when government uses millions of dollars to sort out the fuel crisis. Stop being selfish, much as you need to fill your car tank, somebody needs to have food in his home.
The opposition parties are simply baring their hidden fears. It is a fact that if you are a politician you focus your efforts where it matters most. They fear that by travelling to rural areas to distribute flour and other things Joyce Banda is raising the bar higher for them to reach in their quest to win in 2014.
It is this fear that propels opposition parties into action to fabricate stories, attack the current government willy-nilly and engage in violent acts.
2014 will come and it will surely be an interesting civil conduct. Let us remember though that much as it is too early for bets and guesses, a ruling party has never lost a Presidential Election since UDF defeated MCP in 1994.
Ruling parties have had this advantage because they have a leverage to engage the populace through many developmental initiatives such as roads, schools, irrigation schemes, fertilize subsidy among others. This advantage also comes in times of emergency interventions such as distribution of food during hunger and help during natural disasters.
Any party that is serious with making meaningful strides in 2014 should strategize towards being a responsible institution.
If they waste resources fighting Joyce Banda then the script will be the same.
They will lose an election and they will rush to court to contest the results. The time they will be strolling in the corridors of the High Court, the President will be inaugurated either at Kamuzu Stadium or Parliament. Back to square one, they will start another battle as opposition parties.
With the "First Past The Post" electoral provision in place, opposition parties have a lot of work to do if one of them is going to make it. Any simple majority gives the incumbent her own term.
However, with the path that our opposition parties are taking, I doubt if time is ripe for an opposition party to defeat a ruling party at a Presidential election.