Today’s election in Rumphi, Malawi
There is a by-election today in Rumphi, a northern district in Malawi (see shaded area in map). The winner will fill the parliamentary seat made vacant when former MP Moses Chirambo died in August of 2010.
Chirambo was a member of the president’s party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Here are the four candidates running for office, and their party affiliations:
- MacDowell Stevenson Aaron Chidumba Mkandawire of the People’s Party (PP),
- Enock Chihana of the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD),
- Peter Chihana of the People’s Development Movement (PDM)
- Norman Malondanimaso Nyirenda of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
What might otherwise be considered a small event, the Rumphi Central by-election is important for a few reasons. First, with the cancellation of local government elections, there will be few opportunities for Malawians to express publicly their political preferences until the tripartite elections in 2014. The election therefore offers a barometer of Malawian sentiment towards the ruling party, as well as some indication of support for new political parties. Given declining support of the president and his party in the northern region of the country in particular, I think it is incredibly unlikely the DPP candidate will win the seat.
In my opinion, PDM candidate Peter Chihana is favored to win. Peter Chihana has been endorsed by the CCAP Livingstonia Synod and a prominent priest in the Mzuzu Diocese.
The prominence of PDM in this election is another topic of major importance. The PDM is a regional party (from the north, obviously), calling for a federal system in Malawi. PDM has made clear its anger at the re-institution of the university admissions “quota system,” calling it criminal and retrogressive. The PDM, claims, however, that it is not a one-issue party. In short, a win by PDM will put Malawi back to an electoral system with regional support bases.
The importance of the election is obvious in the various parties’ campaign efforts. Malawi Voice journalist Austin Kakande reported before the run-up in the last days of the campaign (campaigning officially ended on Sept. 4):
DPP has deployed a 10 man strong team of its National Governing Council (NGC) members, who are literally camping in the area, conducting a door-to-door campaign day and night.
Even the president made a stop in Rumphi to stump for DPP votes.
It is interesting that DPP is campaigning with Chirambo’s legacy (saying that the next MP should finish what Chirambo started) given that Chirambo was sacked as health minister just days before his death. But, that’s politics.
Polls opened at 6am today and will close at 6pm Malawi time. The first half of the day was characterized by low turnout. Opposition news agency Nyasa Times is also reporting vote buying by the ruling party at the polls.
Some additional links on the Rumphi Central election:
- Garvey Karvel/Nyasa Times with insights on the potential outcomes
- Malawi Electoral Commission “stakeholder speech” on the election