DPP president Peter Mutharika’s pursuit of re-election faces an uphill battle within the party’s central executive committee, where a schism over his eligibility threatens to upend his ambitions, Nation on Sunday can reveal.
The controversy has paralysed the committee’s ability to convene and discuss the way forward, primarily due to concerns that Mutharika, who is currently 82 and would be 85 in September 2025 when Malawians vote, may be in violation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) constitution.
Expressed desire to seek re-election: Mutharika (R)
The constitution stipulates that the presidency is limited to two terms.
Mutharika, who recently expressed his desire to seek re-election, enjoyed endorsements from various quarters within the party in the past three months.
But the committee’s disarray now impedes discussions regarding the party’s elective convention, even after a High Court ruling mandated that it be held within 90 days from September 29 2023.
Namalomba: We are
yet to meet
DPP spokesperson Shadric Namalomba, when asked, acknowledged that the central executive committee is yet to meet.
“The committee is yet to meet, yes. Therefore, the questions you ask will be responded to after their meeting. Thank you,” he said.
But sources within the party revealed that internal divisions are the root cause of the committee’s paralysis.
They claimed that the committee might be manoeuvring to delay meetings to sideline certain members.
A source confirmed that Mutharika’s intent to seek re-election has worsened divisions in the party.
“The High Court ruling and Mutharika’s announcement should have propelled the central committee to make progress in planning the way forward and commencing preparations for the convention,” argued the source.
According to DPP procedures, the central committee should initiate discussions on the party’s future, which includes proposing a convention date.
Following this, the national governing council (NGC) convenes to deliberate on the matter and appoints a convention committee with a designated chairperson.
The party’s secretary-general forms part of this committee.
The convention committee is responsible for all aspects of the convention, including budgeting, logistics, and the distribution of nomination forms to aspirants.
Once completed, these nomination forms are returned through the convention chairperson, who reviews the aspirants’ names for eligibility according to the party’s constitution.
“The party constitution is clear,” said a source. “An NGC member, including a party president, is eligible for re-election for two terms exclusively at a convention.”
Namalomba recently defended Mutharika’s eligibility, referencing the nullification of his election in the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
But a lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, disagreed, arguing that Mutharika would be violating the party’s constitution.
Efforts to obtain reactions from the four aspirants following Mutharika’s intent to contest at the convention proved futile since last week.
Only the party’s vice-president (South), Kondwani Nankhumwa, responded, asserting that he is undeterred by Mutharika’s declaration.
He stressed: “I believe in the principles of our party, which include free and fair competition.”
Mutharika’s decision to run for president again has ignited a debate among political analysts.
Humphrey Mvula, a politician and commentator, believes Mutharika’s declaration will exacerbate divisions within the party stemming from leadership issues.
He argues that this move could lead to further infighting, stating: “We will see the infighting continue because since the party lost in the fresh presidential election, a majority section of the party felt it was because Mutharika was still clinging on to power.”
Mvula emphasised the need for the party to take a clear stance on this matter.
On the other hand, political analyst Ernest Thindwa views Mutharika’s declaration as a significant step in eliminating uncertainties within the party’s hierarchy and among DPP supporters, potentially avoiding prolonged internal conflicts.
He believes that Mutharika, given his influence within and beyond the party, stands as the most prominent alternative to challenge the Tonse Alliance in the 2025 general elections.
He added: “I have no doubt that the former president will easily win within the DPP owing to the influence he wields within and beyond the party and lack of admirable alternative quality within the party.”
However, he underscores the importance of upholding democratic ideals in identifying the DPP’s presidential candidate if the outcome of an elective convention is to gain credibility.
The rift within the DPP became evident in August 2020 when the party’s secretary-general Grezelder Jeffrey declared that Mutharika had fulfilled his role and called for an early convention to appoint a ne w leader.
But the party later fired her alongside Nankhumwa, the party’s newly elected vice-president (North) Jappie Mhango and Mulanje West legislator Yusuf Nthenda.