US embassy cable - 04LILONGWE123

HOPES FADE FOR OPPOSITION'S "GRAND COALITION"

Identifier: 04LILONGWE123
Wikileaks: View 04LILONGWE123 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2004-02-17 15:33:00
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 000123 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, MI, Political, Elections 
SUBJECT: HOPES FADE FOR OPPOSITION'S "GRAND COALITION" 
 
REF: A. 03 LILONGWE 1202 
 
     B. LILONGWE 28 
     C. LILONGWE 38 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
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. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
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 

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