The strength of The MDC Alliance, a grouping of 7 Political parties is being tested. The Alliance is based on mutual understanding and the desire to stop President Mnangagwa getting his first 5-year term. The initial proposition was to allow a constituency-sharing arrangement based on the party popularity. Each party would provide parliamentary candidates from constituencies it enjoys popularity. A chosen panel would look at where best to place the candidates by their popularity. The MDC-T as the biggest and most popular party would provide the Presidential candidate for the coalition. The understanding is that if Chamisa wins the presidency, the coalition leaders would land good government positions. Achieving a similar objective would be difficult if they ran individually. Advocate Nelson Chamisa became the face of the MDC Alliance and his party’s colors became the dominant colors of the alliance. Four months into the campaign Chamisa’s MDT-T has become exceedingly powerful compared to its partners.
Zanu PF decided to select their candidates through a democratic process. That made the MDC Alliance look undemocratic by imposing candidates. They were forced to revise their selection process by introducing primary elections. While this is good for democracy, it is not in line with the Alliance’s first arrangement of fairly choosing candidates from all parties. Some candidates like Jessie Fungayi Majome who was squared off against Joana Ruvimbo Mamombe, refused to participate in primaries because she felt cheated. She is the seating MP for Harare West Constituency. She believes she is popular in the area so ideally, she is the best candidate for the constituency to beat off ZANU PF. Instead of participating in the primaries, she decided to stand as an independent candidate. The MDC-T Vice President Elias Mudzuri was made to contest against junior people in the party. He refused to participate. The party moved in to negotiate with him to be a Senate instead.
At a press conference held by the MDC-T National Chairperson Morgen Komichi and Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora, the two stated that there is no way the Alliance would field weaker candidates for the election. They said strong candidates are only seen through primary elections, so primaries were necessary. This view is not shared by all parties in the alliance. Now because of the dominance of the MDC-T in the alliance, candidates from minor parties are losing primaries to the MDC-T candidates. The other alliance partners are crying foul. This is leading to a situation where the MDC-T will end up providing most of the election candidates in the alliance. This is where the bone of contention is. The alliance has a choice of fielding strong candidates or choosing weak candidates to make each party happy. If the alliance deliberately handpick candidates from coalition partners, that would lead to MDC-T party disgruntlement. MDC-T has enough candidates for every constituency. It will be difficult to make some of these give up their constituencies for candidates they regard as weaker. Morgen Komichi said the alliance will field strong candidates.
The strength of each party in the alliance is in its base support. If you don’t command support, you have no power in the coalition. However, the power of each party has changed significantly since the death of Morgan Tsvangirai in February this year. From the time Chamisa became the coalition brand name, the support of the other parties is shrinking. This is because campaigning is primarily done through Chamisa and his party. While the coalition partners at the top are happy and hoping for success, their base support at the bottom is unsettled. They are unsettled because they are being overrun by the MDC-T bullet train. If primaries are held across the country today, MDC-T would sweep away all seats. This is giving them the confidence to bully others.
Clearly, it is too late for any coalition principals to quit the alliance. If they do, they risk getting a backlash from Chamisa supporters like Khupe did. They would also miss an opportunity to be in government if Chamisa wins or even if there will be a GNU. They must stay in there. At the same time, their support base is shifting to Chamisa and the MDC-T. It appears they were promoting Chamisa and the MDC-T at their own expense. They are now at the mercy of the MDC-T. If the partners fail to get parliamentary seats candidacy, they lose power to negotiate in the coalition. The big question is, does Chamisa still need them?
The South African online newspaper, News24.com on Wednesday ran an article titled, “Zim: Ex-finance minister’s party threatens to quit ‘unhappy Alliance”. In the report, they described the disgruntlement of Biti’s base supporters. The report which was also run in many newspapers quoted members of PDP saying, “MDC-T (Chamisa) promised to stay away from constituencies that our members would be taking part in. However, this is not what is happening on the ground. We now have MDC-T (Chamisa) candidates who think they are superior to ours and are trying to renege on their party’s assurances to let our members go unopposed by other Alliance members”. It may be too late for these guys because there is no way they will now beat Chamisa’s MDC-T in this election. Negotiations should have been done at the start of the coalition.
The options for the alliance partners are now very limited. The best option is to stay quiet and be at the mercy of Chamisa and the MDC-T. There is hope for the coalition leaders if Chamisa wins the election. In case there is a GNU, then it will be difficult for Chamisa to choose names he will submit to the government for government posts since he must please both his party and the coalition partners. There is a rumor circulating that Chamisa is already engaging with the government for the post-election era. It is believed he was asked by the VP Chiwenga about what he will do since he is in a coalition and Chamisa said the MDC-T will be his primary constituency for government posts. If Chamisa loses, that is the end of the story. The base support for the coalition is probably blended into the MDC-T support base. That will certainly kill off the other partners.
The other option for the partners is to take stock and see what is best for them now since we still have two months to the election. It is too late for them to field presidential candidates. However, they can still garner support for parliamentary seats if they can vigorously concentrate on selected constituencies where they are strong. There is no way back for Biti and Ncube. Their only hope is Chamisa. It is the people under them who are disgruntled. These people can sit and wait for the coalition negotiations or they can stand as independent candidates or even join other parties, especially Khupe’s party. Alliance negotiations are underway. The last option is leaving the coalition and give it a go using a different route. Even if MDC-T fields candidates in those areas, it is better to fight than lose everything. If all coalition candidates are accommodated in the alliance, it will lead to the disgruntlement of MDC-T candidates. It is difficult to please both. Some of them will make a move rather than lose out on this election. Whichever way something has got to give.