This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS LILONGWE 000123
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV KDEM MI SUBJECT: HOPES FADE FOR OPPOSITION'S "GRAND COALITION"
REF: A. 03 LILONGWE 1202
B. LILONGWE 28
C. LILONGWE 38
1. (SBU) Republican Party (RP) President Gwanda Chakuamba and People's Progressive Movement (PPM) President Aleke Banda were elected presidential candidate and running mate of the 7-party opposition alliance known as the "Mgwirizano Coalition" on February 13. Political activists had hoped to create a Kenya-style "grand coalition" alternative to the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), but rivalries have kept the opposition's two most influential parties -- Brown Mpinganjira's National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and John Tembo's Malawi Congress Party (MCP) -- out of the alliance's ranks. Without the NDA and MCP, the Mgwirizano Coalition is a conglomeration of minor parties with a few major political figures (including Vice President Justin Malewezi). Weak grassroots support, a lack of institutional structures, and poor geographical coverage limit the Coalition's chances for success in the May elections. In its current form, its most likely role will be to split the opposition's vote. END SUMMARY.
SOMETHING OF A COALITION IS BORN
2. (U) After weeks of clergy-led discussions, the Republican Party (RP), Movement for Genuine Democratic Change (MGODE), People's Progressive Movement (PPM), National Unity Party (NUP), Malawi Forum For Unity and Development (MAFUNDE), People's Transformation Party (PETRA), and Malawi Democratic Party (MDP) signed an MOU on January 23 to contest May 18's general elections as the "Migwirizano Coalition." On February 13, the Coalition selected a presidential candidate and running mate by rating nominees from each party on pre-selected criteria. Winning the most votes, RP President Gwanda Chakuamba became the presidential candidate and PPM President Aleke Banda took his side as running mate.
3. (SBU) Taking part in the talks, but notably absent from the MOU, were the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Publicly, the MCP and NDA have cited various reasons for not joining the Coalition, including concerns over the method by which the presidential candidate and running mate were chosen and worries over the long-term viability of the Coalition, which has done little work so far in harmonizing its consituents' platforms or in post-election planning. (Comment: It is clear, however, that behind-the-scenes wrangles over who would lead any coalition have been a major stumbling block, with both the MCP and NDA holding out for the top positions.)
...BUT WILL IT HOLD?
4. (U) Despite the signing of the MOU, the Coalition remains tenuous. A faction of MGODE, led by Greenwell Mwamondwe and Sam Kandodo Banda, reportedly left a Coaltion candidate selection meeting to protest the absence of the NDA and MCP. A fissure has reportedly developed in the party over continued support to the Coalition, and newspaper accounts have claimed similar internal frictions surfacing within PPM.
5. (SBU) The Mgwirizano Coalition has none of the unity or strength opposition activists hoped it would. In its current form, it is little more than a conglomeration of minor parties -- most of which are not represented in Parliament. While the names of Chakuamba, Banda, and Malewezi lend the Coalition political credibility, they do little to extend its power base.
6. (SBU) Time is running out on hopes for a grand opposition alliance. While the MCP or NDA might still come to some accommodation with the Coalition, the Malawi Electoral Commission's February 25 deadline for the formal announcement of presidential candidates is fast approaching. And if the NDA, MCP, and the Coalition all put forward their own candidates (as appears likely), the opposition will be badly split -- much to the advantage of the ruling United Democratic Front. END COMMENT. BROWNING