US embassy cable - 04LILONGWE910

OPPOSITION ROUNDUP: WHO'S WHERE IN OPPOSITION

Identifier: 04LILONGWE910
Wikileaks: View 04LILONGWE910 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2004-09-22 07:56:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV KDEM PINR MI Parliament Political President
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 SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000910 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, PINR, MI, Parliament, Political, President 
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION ROUNDUP: WHO'S WHERE IN OPPOSITION 
 
REF: A. LILONGWE 798 
 
     B. LILONGWE 488 
     C. LILONGWE 493 
     D. LILONGWE 38 
     E. LILONGWE 270 
     F. LILONGWE 559 
     G. LILONGWE 895 
 
1. (SBU) Since the May 2004 presidential and parliamentary 
elections, the landscape of opposition politics has changed. 
Political parties and national politics remain focused on 
individuals, but many of those individuals now have their own 
parties.  While not necessarily breaking down the strong 
regionalism that exists in Malawian politics, the 
representation of several parties in Parliament creates a 
much less stable working majority in the House.  With 
President Mutharika's support waning in his own United 
Democratic Front (UDF), balancing opposition and ruling party 
politics is becoming more difficult, as evidenced by the 
current budget debate (reftel G).  The following details the 
alliances of principle opposition figures. 
 
John Tembo: President of the Malawi Congress Party 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
2. (SBU) Winning the second most votes in the 2004 
presidential elections with twenty-seven percent of the 
popular vote, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John 
Tembo is Leader of Opposition in Parliament, and since the 
elections he has settled comfortably into that role.  The 
MCP, with more seats in the House than any other political 
party, is also the most stable voting block.  Tembo and the 
MCP have supported the Mutharika administration on some 
initiatives, such as some of the President's controversial 
appointments, but they have also been a meaningful opposition 
to important government issues, such as the budget.  At 
present, Tembo is the party president with the most control 
over his party, and the MCP is the most unified party. 
 
Gwanda Chakuamba: President of the Republican Party 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
3. (SBU) After coming in third in the presidential elections 
and mounting a brief legal challenge to Mutharika's win, 
Gwanda Chakuamba and his Republican Party (RP) formed an 
alliance with the UDF (reftel B).  Chakuamba, who promised he 
would retire from politics if he did not win as the 
Mgwirizano Coalition's presidential candidate and who does 
not have a seat in the House, has thus far kept his word. 
The media generally speculate that Chakuamba was willing to 
ally his party with the UDF and drop the court case because 
the GOM agreed to pay Chakuamba an outstanding settlement 
from his imprisonment under the Banda regime.  Newly 
appointed Attorney General Ralph Kasambara announced recently 
that the GOM plans to appeal the court's decision to award 
Chakuamba MK 56 million (USD 520,000) in restitution.  If 
government pursues the appeal, RP, which is the largest party 
after the UDF in the UDF's working majority, will likely 
return to the opposition ranks of the House. 
 
Chakufwa Chihana: President of the Alliance for Democracy 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
4. (SBU) For unilaterally deciding to back the UDF and 
Mutharika in the 2004 elections, Chakufwa Chihana has become 
largely unpopular in his former Northern Region stronghold, 
and his Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) party won less than a 
third of the parliamentary seats it had in 1999.  Chihana has 
recently made unsuccessful attempts to re-gain favor in the 
North and among AFORD break-away party Movement for Genuine 
Democracy (MGODE) MPs.  After his short stint as Second Vice 
President and Minister of Agriculture at the end of President 
Muluzi's second administration, Chihana, still Minister of 
Agriculture, is aging, and concern about his pension is the 
likely cause of his current faithfulness to the UDF. 
Chihana's fickle political nature and unilateral 
decision-making have decimated the usually very solid 
Northern Region voting block that AFORD once controlled. 
 
Sam Kandodo Banda: President of Movement for Genuine Democracy 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
5. (SBU) Sam Kandodo Banda, former AFORD heavyweight, led the 
internal AFORD faction displeased with Chihana's leadership 
to form the Movement for Genuine Democracy (MGODE).  More so 
than other parties, MGODE has focused on developing internal 
party structures, and it has gained some grassroots support 
in the North Region as the viable alternative to AFORD. 
Shortly after the elections, MGODE formed an alliance with 
the UDF and received a minor ministerial position (reftel C). 
 Kandodo Banda, though not a parliamentarian or minister, is 
recognized as the party's leader, and the party is poised to 
gain influence in the Northern Region. 
 
Aleke Banda: President of People's Progressive Movement 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
6. (SBU) Aleke Banda, former UDF stalwart and Minister in 
both of President Muluzi's administrations, became the de 
facto head of the Mgwirizano Coalition when Chakuamba left 
the coalition to support the UDF.  Banda, who had been the 
Coalition's vice presidential candidate, was elected the 
President of People's Progressive Movement (PPM) after he 
left the UDF (reftel D).  He and PPM remain strongly 
anti-UDF.  Reduced from its original strength of seven 
parties, the Mgwirizano Coalition currently comprises five 
parties and controls a handful of seats in Parliament. 
Taking the mantle from Chakuamba, Banda continues to pursue 
the legal challenge of the elections, though legal hurdles 
and questionable evidence have dogged the process. 
 
Brown Mpinganjira: Re-Joined the United Democratic Front 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
7. (SBU) The once right-hand man of former President Bakili 
Muluzi, Brown Mpinganjira, who in 2001 formed the aggressive 
anti-UDF opposition pressure group cum political party the 
National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has re-joined the UDF 
after garnering few votes in the 2004 presidential elections. 
 Disgruntled members of the NDA have tried to re-vitalize the 
opposition group, but the efforts have had little traction. 
Mpinganjira, seeing his political future better served in the 
UDF, no doubt eyes the party's presidential candidacy for 
2009, as many believe the UDF will not allow President 
Mutharika to contest for a second term.  (reftel A) 
 
Hetherwick Ntaba: President of New Congress for Democracy 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
8. (SBU) Former MCP heavyweight Hetherwick Ntaba, who created 
the New Congress for Democracy (NCD) party to stand as a 
presidential candidate, earned himself a ministerial position 
just before the elections for pulling out of the presidential 
race and supporting the UDF (reftel E).  In Mutharika's 
administration, Ntaba was appointed Minister of Health and is 
largely viewed as a UDF sellout.  He is contesting the 
election results in his constituency, where he was defeated 
by an MCP candidate. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
9. (SBU) The UDF's working majority in Parliament is fragile, 
and it does not help that it was orchestrated by UDF chairman 
Bakili Muluzi, not President Mutharika (reftel F). 
Maintaining that working majority will largely depend on how 
the individuals listed above are treated by the UDF.  If 
Mutharika continues to neglect the necessary political 
housekeeping, he will either find himself without a working 
majority in Parliament or dependent on Muluzi to garner 
support from opposition leaders. 
 
10. (SBU) COMMENT CONTINUED.  National politics continue to 
focus on individuals, rather than ideologies.  And, while 
there are more political parties represented in Parliament, 
support for those parties remains largely along regional 
lines: the UDF in the Southern Region; the MCP in the Central 
Region; and AFORD, PPM, and MGODE in the Northern Region. 
END COMMENT. 
RASPOLIC 

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