Sunday, September 2, 2012

A gathering without substance: brief thoughts on the People’s Party Convention

The main news from Malawi this last week was the People's Party (PP) convention that run from August 27th -28th. Several commentators have applauded the PP for holding a convention to elect various office holders. The fact that several of the party's founding members lost seats to 11th hour newcomers has been cited as an indicator of how open elections were.
Given recent experience, I guess it is fair to give the People's Party some credit for giving its membership a chance to decide the party's senior leadership. This is a major contrast to the Democratic Progressive Party (which was never democratic or progressive), which has never held a convention in its seven-year history.
Other parties can hopefully take a lesson from the PP and give their membership a chance to have a say on who should lead them. This is the minimum one can ask for in a democratic society. As it has been said several times, we cannot expect to be a true democracy if democracy is lacking in our political parties.
But I also happen to believe the PP has been given a free pass on what the party did not do at this convention.
Firstly, I was hoping the party would use the convention as opportunity to define itself. I have never believed the individuals that have been flocking to PP in recent months claiming that there are attracted to what the party stands for. Yet, it is not clear (to me at least) what the PP exactly stands for other than that it is led by Joyce banda and not Bingu wa Mutharika or Bakili Muluzi. I was hoping Joyce Banda and the PP would use this convention to define the party's agenda and policies. Democracy would have been better served if the PP membership at the convention had been given the chance to make a contribution to the PP's platform.
"Fisi ndi fisi"- a hyena is a hyena.
Secondly, I thought the PP missed a huge opportunity by retaining the same tried and failed politicians. As that old adage goes, fisi ndi fisi (a hyena is a hyena) – Simply clothing individuals that were part and parcel of the DPP and UDF misrule in the PP orange colors does not make them suddenly capable and competent. I have said this before, and I will say it again: Bingu Mutharika was the main conductor of the economic and political collapse in recent years in Malawi- but he was not alone. At a minimum, his misrule was was aided and abated by some of the very individuals that have now flocked to PP. If Bingu were alive today, most of these opportunists would still be plundering the country and trampling on our rights while taking the country to the dark ages. Forgive me if I am not enthused by their joining of PP.

Lastly, I was honestly shocked that there was no debate on the People's party Constitution. For a new party, I was hoping the convention would debate and endorse the party's constitution. Indeed, how else did people know the positions they were contesting for are legal in the absence of discussions on the party's constitution?
At the end of the day, it was saddening that no one cared about defining the party platform or debating and endorsing the PP's constitution. It was in this regard, a gathering without substance, and I for one feel it was a great opportunity that was missed.

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