The elections are a mere three days away. The official campaign period ends on Sunday, May 17th at 06:00am.
Being so removed from the ground has meant that I have been unable to make any independent judgments and predictions on the entire process. It is the second election that I will be missing and this gives me a heavy heart. I can only hope that those that have the vote use it on Tuesday and decide on who should be entrusted with the power to exercise the role of President for the next five years and who should also be entrusted with making laws for the same period. There is just no excuse for not voting.
So who are the likely winners and losers from these elections? My predictions, I should stress, are based on second hand information, reinforced by the live radio coverage from Zodiak radio and Capital radio's daily news summaries - two of Malawi's best radio stations).
President: Bingu wa Mutharika faces a tough challenge from MCP's John Tembo, whose electoral fortunes have been boosted by his coalition with the UDF. An Afrobaromter survey conducted late last year gave Mutharika a commanding lead over both Tembo and Muluzi (standing as individual candidates). While the coalition gives MCP and UDF the chance to consolidate their vote, I am not convinced this gives them enough to overturn Mutharika's lead from last October's survey. Yes, a couple of decisions on the DPP side - including running mate selection, confrontational and sometimes ill-advised choice of language that disparages opponents and their supporters alike, might have eroded Mutharika's support among a section of the middle class. However, while this will make the presidential race a tighter race than the Afrobarometer survey data suggested, I still feel Mutharika will sneak in.
Verdict: Mutharika for President.
Parliament: The selection of candidates for the DPP in the primary elections left a lot to be desired. candidates were imposed, while some winners were discarded in favour of preferred names. While DPP is going to increase its numbers in the new Parliament from the six it had in the previous one, it might yet again fall short of a majority. I am also somewhat unsure of the impact of the UDF/MCP coalition on Parliament. Listening to the campaign coverage on Zodiak radio, I cannot help to think that voters are bound to be confused when you have John Tembo / Bakili Muluzi introducing candidates for both parties in the elections that will be competing against each other. This might have an impact on their performance in the elections.
Verdict: another split Parliament