US embassy cable - 04LILONGWE28

FURTHER PRE-ELECTION FRAGMENTATION IN THE OPPOSITION

Identifier: 04LILONGWE28
Wikileaks: View 04LILONGWE28 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2004-01-09 11:36:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV KDEM MI Political Elections
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


 
UNCLAS LILONGWE 000028 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, MI, Political, Elections 
SUBJECT: FURTHER PRE-ELECTION FRAGMENTATION IN THE 
OPPOSITION 
 
REF: A. 03 LILONGWE 449 
 
     B. 03 LILONGWE 938 
 
1. (SBU) Malawi Congress Party (MCP) vice president Gwanda 
Chakuamba resigned from the leading opposition party and 
formed the Republican Party on January 8.  After a shaky 
seven-month marriage of convenience with MCP president and 
personal nemesis John Tembo (ref B), Chakuamba announced his 
departure was a result of "public demands" that he form a 
party of his own.  Tembo, apparently surprised by Chakuamba's 
decision, has not yet publicly commented. 
 
2. (U) Chakuamba's defection came 10 days after former MCP 
treasurer Hetherwick Ntaba left the MCP to form his own 
party, New Congress for Democracy (NCD).  Ntaba, who is 
interim president of the party, told a press conference on 
December 28 that he formed the party because of political 
difficulties he was facing with the MCP's leadership.  (NOTE: 
The once faithful confidant of Tembo, Ntaba has had 
difficulties in the MCP since he attempted to run for the 
party's presidency at the April 2003 convention per ref A. 
Recently Ntaba, who has been accused of collusion with the 
ruling United Democratic Front and President Muluzi, was 
suspended from the MCP's National Executive Committee.) 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
3. (SBU)  Ntaba is popular among a very small group of urban 
technocrats in the MCP, most of whom are unlikely to leave 
the patronage system and prestige of an established party. 
His departure will have little real effect on the MCP, and 
his only chances for continued political influence are 
through a coalition with other opposition parties or, if 
rumors be true, through further collusion with the UDF and 
Muluzi.  Chakuamba, on the other hand, has controlled a 
faction of roughly half of the MCP membership.  His 
departure, while not surprising, will mean major electoral 
and party recalculations for the MCP.  Without Chakuamba's 
support (and that of his followers), the MCP is no longer the 
leading opposition party; it is simply an opposition party 
among many others. 
 
4. (SBU) COMMENT CONTINUED.  With the elections four months 
away, the next couple of weeks will be decisive in forming 
the opposition ballot.  It remains plausible that a 
Kenya-like situation occurs where the majority of the 
opposition parties coalesce to field a single presidential 
candidate and to share parliamentary seats -- which 
opposition parties contend will happen.  With a February 25 
deadline on nomination of presidential candidates, serious 
negotiation (along with serious compromises) will have to 
occur rather quickly among the various opposition party 
leaders.  However, considering the opposition's previous 
failures to work together, a Zambia-like scenario is also 
possible with divisions among numerous opposition parties 
allowing the ruling UDF to maintain power with a fairly low 
percentage of votes.  END COMMENT. 
BROWNING 

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