DPP’s succession plans pulling down Malawi’s gains
07 Jan 2012 by Charles Mkula in International 1548 Views
Lilongwe – Research Associate of the London based Overseas Development Institute, Diana Cammack, has warned that Malawi risks failing to turn around the social and economic lives of its citizens if the Bingu wa Mutharika administration continues to centralize power into the hands of the president and pamper politics of patronage. Cammack, leader of the Local Governance and Leadership stream of the Africa Power and Politics programme fears that a strong tendency towards centralisation of power in the hands of the president other than the parliament, the judiciary, parastatals and local and district government risks slipping back the country’s gains achieved between 2006 and 2009. “Patronage politics with ties reaching through party-political clients all the way into villages and urban areas sees the exchange of rents for votes,” she notes adding that “clientelism and nepotism undermine civil service reforms, which affects policy making and public goods delivery”.
Since Mutharika won an overwhelming parliamentary majority in the 2009 elections, the president has been making orders to push through a number of unpopular policies, many of which curtail civil rights including free expression and privacy, academic freedom and local government elections. Cammack observes that one factor that threatens the political stability of the landlocked southern state is the ruling Democratic Progressive (DPP’s) efforts to ensure its own survival in 2014 elections and the president’s desire to be succeeded by his brother. “Top of the DPP’s presidential shortlist is the president’s brother and former American-based law professor, Peter Mutharika,” notes the researcher. “Though two and a half years remain until the 2014 election, suppressing internal and external opposition to his candidacy and to the DPP drives much of government’s agenda”. Cammack points out at Mutharika’s predecessor Bakili Muluzi who at the end of his first term in office changed advisors and with that his political agenda, “resulting in less interest in national development and more in ensuring he and his United Democratic Front (UDF) party retained power.”
In his quest to consolidate power after a failed attempt to change the constitution to allow him to go for an unconstitutional third term, Muluzi appointed a rank outsider in Bingu wa Mutharika to succeed him so that he could pull the strings from behind the scenes. The ODI researcher believes that like Muluzi before him, the succession politics in a neopatrimonial environment has undone Bingu wa Mutharika’s first term good work. “The desire to see Peter Mutharika and the DPP get into power in 2014 has created a need for large (and expensive) cabinets and perks for ministers, corrupt deals that pad the pockets of clients, nepotistic civil service appointments, politicisation of public policy-making and stalled decentralization,” she says observing that “Whereas in 2009 voters supported Mutharika because he delivered development, in 2014 they will remember the nation’s ubiquitous shortages and his autocratic legislation and decrees.”
© 2012, Charles Mkula. All rights reserved.