Some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) parliamentarians are persuading Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda to contest for the party’s top job at the convention slated for April.
The MPs argue that Chimunthu Banda has shown stable, mature and effective leadership in his political career that can steer the former ruling party back to power in 2014.
Blantyre West MP Wells Gama confirmed reports that some legislators are pressurising the Speaker of Parliament to make a stand on the issue.
“Indeed those reports are true. I am aware that some legislators not only from DPP, but also from other parties as well as independents want Chimunthu to stand at the DPP convention.
“The fact is that he [Chimunthu] has not declared his interest yet. But if he did I would be one of those in his support. To me he is a mature and stable politician and has demonstrated that quality leadership both as a cabinet minister and Speaker of Parliament as well,” he said.
Gama’s sentiments were also shared by outspoken Thyolo Thava MP who announced that he is returning to the party after being booted out a year ago.
“What I know is that I am returning to the DPP in response to the request of my constituents. As for people who will contest for the party’s presidency, I believe there should be competition. If Chimunthu decides to stand, I would personally support that because that is the essence of democracy. But I am not joining any camp within the party, I am going back to the DPP,” Nawena said.
He added that he would not be surprised if Mutharika welcomes any competitor for the party’s highest position.
“Mutharika on record stated that he would like to see as many people vying for the party’s presidency. He is a democrat that is why he is so open,” he said.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said the party is yet to start distributing nomination forms in readiness for the conference.
“We are going to start that process mid February so at the moment it is premature (to comment on candidates). As of now, we are busy with regional consultative meetings on our constitution and manifesto,” he said.
Chimunthu Banda could not be reached for his comment after so many attempts on Wednesday and Thursday.
When contacted through his office at Parliament, an officer said the Speaker has been out of Lilongwe with visiting Speaker of Maldives.
As Leader of the House, Chimunthu was instrumental in the passing of bills when DPP was in a minority government between 2005 and 2009, when former ruling party, United Democratic Front (UDF) and main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) joined forces against the late Bingu wa Mutharika regime.
The late Mutharika also used to delegate him as the in-charge in his absence from the country.
Chimunthu, Nkhotakota North MP, is also a founding member of the DPP.
In an interview on Wednesday, a Chancellor College political analyst Blessings Chinsinga described Chimunthu as a “credible candidate” for the DPP.
“It is not the first time that we have heard his name being lined up for DPP leadership. That explains that he is presidential material.
“Much as Peter Mutharika is a frontrunner, the mention of the Speaker’s name means there is wide discontentment among rank and file of the DPP. If Chimunthu plays his cards well, he can pull a surprise should he decide to stand,” he said.
He, however, warned that Mutharika has the advantage of incumbency as he is the current leader of the party.
“Mutharika has the resources which is his biggest advantage. He might also have better ideas though not very gifted apart from being incumbent and brother to the former president.
“But Chimunthu is a complete politician and he can use that to bring out messages that would appeal to the masses,” he said.
The DPP convention was slated for December 2011 but was later carried forward to April this year to mark one year anniversary of the death of former president Mutharika.
Since the demise of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, his young brother Arthur Peter Mutharika assumed the leadership of the party in an interim capacity, ahead of former first vice president Goodall Gondwe who has since defected to ruling People’s Party (PP).
DPP Governor for the South Noel Masangwi announced in 2009 soon after the late Bingu had won a second term in office that his brother Peter should take over in 2014 ahead of then Vice President Joyce Banda who was eventually kicked out of the party.