Bird’s eye view: Tonse Alliance is not a registered political entity

In the lead-up to the June 2020 fresh presidential elections, two prominent opposition figures, Lazarus Chakwera, president of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and Saulos Chilima, leader of the United Transformation Movement (UTM), forged an electoral alliance.

The specifics of their agreement remained undisclosed, but it was evident that the main objective was to unseat the incumbent at the time, Arthur Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Following a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that mandated a presidential candidate to secure more than 50 percent of the total votes cast for victory, the electoral landscape shifted from a First Past the Post system to 50+1.
Consequently, even Mutharika replaced his 2019 running mate Everton Chimulirenji with United Democratic Front (UDF) president Atupele Muluzi.

With the next presidential elections looming, discussions on alliances are once again at the forefront, particularly regarding the terms of the agreement between Chakwera and Chilima.
Last year, Chilima informed the nation that, according to their pact, Chakwera was to serve a single term as President, as Chilima was designated to be the Tonse Alliance candidate.

However, this assertion overlooked a crucial clause in the purported agreement stipulating that the selection of the presidential candidate hinged on the endorsement of either party’s national executive or convention.
Thus, it was not guaranteed that Chilima would automatically assume the role of the Tonse Alliance’s presidential candidate.
Ignoring this clause, UTM’s anticipation of leading an alliance dominated by MCP, a party with over 60 Members of Parliament, while UTM holds fewer than five seats, seems unrealistic.

As highlighted by University of Malawi lecturer Professor Happy Kayuni, MCP, as the larger party, has historically fielded presidential candidates during its time in opposition; it should not falter now that it is in Government.
Kayuni further clarified that the agreement between the two leaders lacks legal binding as it is not supported by any provision in the country’s Constitution.

In July 2022, PPM president Mark Katsonga and MAFUNDE leader George Nnensa also schooled UTM leadership that the countrys laws do not legally support electoral alliances and that it was MCP, which was registered for the presidential elections.
Moreover, there is no entity known as the Tonse Alliance Government in Malawi, as evidenced by Chakwera and Chilima standing on the black cock (tambala wakuda) symbol during the 2020 ballot. Essentially, Malawi is under an MCP-led government.

UTM’s belief that their leader will represent an alliance in which MCP is a significant component is misguided. This is merely wishful thinking and it is imperative that they are disabused of this notion before it is too late.
Politically speaking, the Tonse Alliance was established based on the prevailing political circumstances at the time and is not a formally registered political entity. Consequently, once presidential candidates for the 2025 elections submit their nomination papers, the Tonse Alliance will dissolve as other alliances emerge.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that the recent MCP national executive committee meeting convened at the party’s headquarters has officially endorsed President Chakwera as its candidate.

At this juncture, UTM’s best course of action would be to start the search for their presidential candidate; otherwise, they risk entering the electoral fray without a contender for the presidency.