Namisa Blogger of the year 2013,Stimulating the much needed debate

The highest decision-making body in all parties is the party convention. As the People’s Party (PP) is holding its convention at the College of Medicine in Blantyre, it is only proper to congratulate them. By conducting their maiden indaba, the PP, which was formed in 2010, has underscored one thing: that there is no excuse not to convene such a gathering. Democracy is representative.

With the ruling party setting the pace, it is expected that all political parties in Malawi will hold their conventions as soon as possible so that people should have informed choices of who to vote for in 2014.

The importance of holding party conventions cannot be emphasized. It affords the [party] followers to be led by people they have trust and the governors do so with the confidence and trust of the governed. On the hand, earlier conventions afford the general population to sample the candidates of the various torch bearers in an upcoming election. The voters, therefore, do make informed choices. Charity begins at home, so they say. Intra-party democracy starts at the party conventions and it grows. In the end democracy wins.

While I am at it, it is worrying that most of the major parties have not gone to the convention for years despite claiming to be democratic. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is yet to afford its general membership the chance to elect its office bearers seven years after its formation by the late Bing wa Mutharika. For all these years, it only pleased the professor leader to appoint people to the party’s National Governing Council (NGC). This does not reflect the progressiveness and democracy that the party’s name seems to proclaim.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) is now a less united front as it is so engulfed with internal bickering punctuated by factions; each having a chairman and/or a president. This has left supporters of the former ruling party (1994-2005) so confused and lost as they have watched hopelessly a numbers of its senior leadership (from both camps) dining with PP either inside government, in PP or both . The last time the ‘democratic’ party had a shame convention was in 2003 at the Comesa Hall in Blantyre. This, I must say, was to rubber stamp the presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika, the rank-outsider and create the position of National Chairman of its sole financier, Dr. Bakili Muluzi.

The oldest party in the land, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) seems to be stuck with its strongest man Right Honorable John Z.U. Tembo. It is not clear if the ‘big man’ is exiting the stage anytime soon for others to lead the once-upon-a-time mighty MCP. This has cleared leadership problem in the party and those who had earlier indicated their interest to lead the party have left, very disgruntled. Some are still waiting in the wings.

Therefore it is big win for democracy for PP to hold its convention two years before general elections considering that all NEC positions are up for grabs. However area of concern is that nobody would like to compete on the highest seat. It could have been good to see all posts including that of the president up for grabs.

In an election, just as it is in any race, there would be losers and winners alike. The party will be re-defined and its future reshaped based on the conduct of the ‘losing big names’ or better still the ‘losing founders’.

It is also not clear if the convention will address the issue of running mate considering that there will be election of three vice presidents as per the three political provinces of the party. Who among the three elected vice presidents would be the running mate would break or make the party. But that is for another day and most importantly for the PP membership to handle.

Are delegates familiar with the constitution or it’s a matter of rubber-stamping it? Reports indicate the delegates were receiving the constitution only last night. If this is true, I doubt if they had time to scrutinize the legal document to make meaningful use of it as they deliberate at the convention.

Regardless, I say congratulation to the People’s Party. You have shown the way; let the DPP, UDF, MCP and all political parties in Malawi follow.

Long live intra-party democracy!

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