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Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

191 as a demonstration

191 as a demonstration of his limited abilities. By design or by accident, the new president‟s definition of his post-election agenda so resonated with the press and the parliament that any other frame (favourable or unfavourable towards the new government) was immediately subordinated to the Leadership Frame. Mutharika‟s stated agenda was generally presented as having long term positive effects for the nation. This ensured that the press, in its continuing coverage of Mutharika, would revise its assessment of the new president from negative coverage to more positive coverage. A news story becomes of interest when a person – one well known to the audience - is involved, and thus a focal point is created where interest and identification can be pinned. Bennett (2008) claims that even though the more complicated aspects of a story (such as corruption and leadership wrangles) are more “important”, journalists tend to focus on the people involved in the issue instead. Accordingly, personalising news stories enables an issue to be easily dramatised and made interesting in the scope of a short story The multifaceted nature of the issues surrounding Mutharika‟s reform agenda were easily encapsulated in the context of leadership. In short, Muluzi and his administration had proven to be incapable of dealing with the country‟s economic problems while Mutharika and his team were presented as the “the bright new lights of the Mutharika administration . . .” who were “adamant in their exposure of the financial mismanagement of the previous government.” (Daily Times, 2004c, p.2). Thus, as Steve Nhlane (2004) argued concerning Mutharika: “He is likely to win hearts and minds of many if he does not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor (Muluzi).” In the end, the dramatic leadership wrangle served the purpose of contrasting the Muluzi administration against the incoming Mutharika administration. Muluzi was presented as

192 not only unable to deal with the complex issues facing the nation but as standing in the way of the Mutharika administration. The third reason behind the rise of the Leadership Frame can be located beyond continuity and personalisation to conflict which is arguably a more superficial and easier packaging of the news than continuity and personalisation. Mutharika‟s packaging of his post-elections agenda put him on a collision course with his party, in general, and Muluzi, in particular, who remained the leader of the UDF. The arrest of high ranking UDF ex-cabinet ministers and members on corruption charges exposed the ideological fissures within the UDF. The conflict between Mutharika and his party was defined as a struggle between the national interest and the party interest as the writer of an editorial in the Weekend Nation (2004b, p.4) observed: Given there are two forces on him, namely the general public who want him to serve the larger good, and his party which might always be on his neck to pressure him to serve its interest and thereby mislead him, Bingu must know one thing: that history will judge him for decisions that serve non-partisan interests. Thus, as the new president‟s attempt to implement his own economic and political agenda for the country unfolded, his isolation from his own party became more and more apparent. It was made all the more interesting as it revealed the serious fissures in the ruling UDF. Indeed, before the year was over, Mutharika had left the UDF to form his own party. Such a state of affairs proved fertile for the journalistic framing of a conflict between the previous president and the new president. This was conflict at the highest level of politics in Malawi. As such, according to the news values that guide news selection (Eilders 2006, p.8), this disagreement between Mutharika and his party boss

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