Bingu victory: Clever marketing mix, lack of alternatives and protest vote

Unless you are JZU Tembo, Brown Mpinganjira, Loveness Gondwe or a blindly loyal supporter of theirs, you will know that Bingu wa Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party gave their opponents a thorough thrashing at the polls, hands down … or should we say fingers up! There are a number of factors that led to this convincing victory.

Clever Marketing Mix

In part the Bingu and DPP election victory was a result of an effective election campaign based on a strong political brand and a record of service delivery. The marketing mix used a variety of media platforms ranging from billboards, television, radio, posters, mobile video, slogans, music and whistle stop road shows with a fleet of branded buses and pickup and Hummers. This allowed the party to sell its policies and programmes to all country’s diverse communities. Online party supporters used email, sms and social media such as Facebook and Twitter to advance the DPP’s campaign. It is only fair to say that there has never been a campaign quite like this one.

The only time Malawi came close to such a campaign was in 1994 when MCP came up with some ingenious campaign tactics. This time around they failed to even produce t-shirts or party cloth, the ‘presidential convoy’ was sad and posters quite dull. James Nyondo and Loveness Gondwe at least had some cloth.

No Alternative

The UDF/MCP Alliance wasted too much time attacking the president for acquiring a fleet of Hummers, saying they would arrest the ruling elite and advancing nonsensical promises such as reverting to the old seating capacity of minibuses and allowing vendors back onto the streets. The MCP only released their manifesto two weeks before the end of the campaign and when it did, it had inconsistencies with what the party leader was saying at public rallies. The NARC party of Loveness Gondwe gave unworkable promises such as the abolition of city and municipal rates, free fertilizer to women and other equally crazy promoses. Independent James Nyondo also had his list of nonstarters such as free iron sheets for the poor and converting all government 4×4 vehicles into ambulances. The other presidential candidates were rarely seen let alone heard. Kamuzu Chibambo admits he only visited four districts where he promised people his government would introduce cable cars! The DPP, while also at times getting involved into unnecessary mudslinging, communicated their solutions to bread and butter challenges. Their manifesto was released early and sold to the electorate in all the four political regions. They were really the only alternative.

Protest Vote

In the past four years, the Bingu administration has been like a cat on a short leash trapped in a corner. They were either fighting off threats of impeachment and Section 65, having bills rejected or trying to get the national budget passed. Despite these insurmountable hurdles, they managed to implement a number of developmental programmes and brought the economy back into check. On the other hand Bakili Muluzi threatened to deflate the tube (Bingu) he had inflated. He forgot that it is the voter that ‘inflates and deflates tubes’ not party chairmen or presidents.

People saw all this and decided it was time to register their protest vote. And as former vice president Cassim Chilumpha right said ‘We politicians should now know that it’s the people that know better than we do’.


All we can now do is hope that all those electoral promises will be translated into developmental projects. I am very optimistic that Bingu will make good use of the current political capital and can proudly look forward to a future of progress – economically, socially and politically.

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