By Jimmy Joseph Namangale (University of Malawi, Chancellor College)
When IPOR was carrying out the study, 25th April – 3rd June 2020, the atmosphere in Malawi created by MCP/UTM followers and sympathizers was that of demonizing the DDP side as having a government that marred the elections mainly getting more courage from the outcomes of the constitutional court and supreme court rulings in favour of the MCP and UTM as well as DPP being scornfully portrayed as an opportunistic lot eyeing for various COVID-19 funds. The IPOR acknowledges the limitation of conducting the survey under such related political environment.
Exploring the likely human behavior in this context, the DPP/UDF followers in the survey would be that they would be the more likely to shy out to air their choice to vote for DPP/UDF presidential candidate than the MCP/UTM. The other likely human behavior from both camps would be that anyone who voted for MCP in 2019 will likely vote again for MCP and likewise the ones who voted for DDP and UDF are likely to vote DDP/UDF in the coming elections. Hence, in the IPOR study with the 1,346 respondents, the closest and most realistic results are the figures related to those that said they would vote for MCP/UTM as they were the least demonized in various media platforms. One can claim then that page 28 of the IPOR report likely reveals that, at the time of the study, which is very close to elections, MCP/UTM support is very close to the displayed figures on the bar charts. These are
79% of the voters for MCP/UTM in the North,
72% of the voters for MCP/UTM in the Centre, and
20% of the voters for MCP/UTM In the South.
In the annulled 2019 elections, where there was no rigging but the courts found gross irregularities, UDF presidential candidate had the following votes, which tallied well with other parallel CSO structures that observed the elections,
1.1% of the votes for UDF in the North,
1.8% of the votes for UDF in the Centre, and
9.3% of the votes for UDF in the South;
while DPP candidate had
18.7% of the votes for DPP in the North,
14.5% of the votes for DPP in the Centre, and
68.1% of the votes for DPP in the South.
It is very unlikely that the previous support from the DPP and UDF will go to the MCP/UTM, but they will stick to their DPP/UDF. As said the DPP/UDF followers were likely to respond cautiously in the context on the political environment than MCP/UTM, who were the court victors where some of their overzealous supporters would portray like their stronghold is a no-go area. However, one may argue that, given the voting is secret, the shy DDP/UDF voter will still vote his/her conscious choice. One may further argue that the combined DPP and UDF will not be less than
1.1% UDF+ 18.7% DPP = 19.8% North (at the minimum),
1.8% UDF+ 14.5% DPP = 16.3% Centre (at the minimum), and
9.3% UDF + 68.1% DPP = 77.4% South (at the minimum).
The IPOR report shows DPP support having declined considerably to 33% from the 39% of the votes got on the 2019 election. This sounds very unrealistic. The plausible explanation should be due to the above implied saving self-perception image on demonized DPP/UDF side.
One may now note that we have had the following numbers of registered voters, who for some inevitable reasons such as deaths, migrations or voter apathy, not everyone will vote. The statistics for the registered voters are;
North: 931,229 registered voters,
Centre: 2,247,157 registered voters, and
South: 3,009,259 registered voters.
Assuming that every voter was to be there, then, if MCP/UTM is to get its current IPOR “realistic” support then it will likely get 79% of the votes in the North, 72% of the votes in the Centre and 20% of the votes in the South. This would gives;
MCP/UTM, 2,951,156 votes for Chakwera.
Now suppose DPP/UDF fails, which is unrealistic, to even gain a single vote from UTM supporters, then the minimum this coalition will have is around 19.8% of votes in the North, 16.3% of the votes in the Centre and 77.4% in the South. This would give this alliance, with no gain from UTM votes, a total of;
DPP/UTM, 2,878,858 votes for Mutharika.
The deficit, under the current MCP/UTM current (likely realistic) support and the scenario that DPP/UDF fails (likely unrealistic) to gain even a single vote from UTM, is Chakwera’s projected votes minus Mutharika’s, giving;
Deficit:72,297 for DPP/UDF needed votes to equal MCP/UTM votes.
This 72,000 or so deficit is likely to be very small since other registered voters are likely not to make it or they moved away or they passed on. It is thus unimaginable that the DPP/UDF campaign so far has not managed to gain such a relatively small deficit from Chilima’s previous one million votes.
So a close scrutiny of the political climate under which IPOR carried out the study as IPOR report highlighted together with the fact that IPOR study sampled equal number of voters from Centre and South, namely 43% each, when in fact the South has more registered voters, the analysis is pointing a finger that the likely side to have more votes on the day using the same IPOR results and human behavior likely to have been there, is the DPP/UDF candidate. It may likely be another close contest than IPOR has reported but it does seem DPP/UDF has a slightly upper hand to have more votes. However, the 50+1 may even fail if the third candidate manages to get votes close to the deficit threshold talked about in this paper.
Otherwise, it is very unrealistic to think of DPP/UDF support to have declined considerably. The majority of the refusal or undecided are likely to be of the respondents from this coalition that are not willing to air their choice.
Institute of Public Opinion and Research (IPOR). (2020). 2020 Pre-election and governance survey, OSISA
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