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Losing Parties and their 'Back-burner strategy'

By Paul T. Shipale
Reading this month's edition of the New African magazine and the news that the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has tabled a budget allocating an amount of N$2 million for post-election legal challenges, one question dawned on me; why do the losing parties not concede defeat and why many of them are now crying foul after a defeat and resort to strategies to deliberately instigate violent street protests to cause general mayhem in order to attract international attention to their cause?

This is what is unfolding in Venezuela with the election of Nicolas Maduro, a Chávista who will continue with the late President Hugo Chávez's socialist revolution. "I will fulfil the legacy of protecting the humble, the poor, to protect the fatherland," said Maduro, who was chosen by Chavez to succeed him just weeks before his death on March 5. Maduro - who served as minister for foreign affairs for six years before being named vicepresident in November 2012 - has also vowed to honour Chávez's close relationship with Cuba.

Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda state who lost to Chavez in October, has refused to accept the official election result and he earlier called for peaceful protests to press his demands for a full recount. While Capriles stressed that he wanted supporters to eschew violence, his call for protests raises the stakes in the post-electoral crisis which so far claimed the lives of seven people. In a sharply worded speech, the Venezuelan electoral council's head shot down Capriles' call for a recount and excoriated him for being disrespectful of Venezuelan law and institutions.

In another report by Osei Boateng in April's New African magazine about the losing presidential candidate in Ghana's December 2012 elections, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his faction of the Ghanaian New Patriotic Party (NPP) and their desperate attempts to win power at any cost, seems to confirm the rhetorical question posed above.

According to Boateng, Akufo- Addo lost the race to President John Dramani Mahama but instead of conceding defeat, he and his running mate as well as the national chairman of their party filed a case before the Supreme Court challenging the election's result. Realising that the court is likely to uphold the presidential election's result due to a lack of evidence of systematic malpractice, Akufo- Addo and his kitchen-cabinet were reported to have been discussing behind closed doors ways to use unlawful means to instigate violent street protests that will lead to general "cacophony" in the country, bad enough to attract international attention to their cause.

Unfortunately for them, their plan leaked out.

The frightening prospect of deliberately going out to manufacture instability is shocking to say the least. Luckily enough, the majority of the party's hierarchy do not share the enthusiasm of Akufo- Addo and his kitchen-cabinet. One such person is Kwame Pianim, a senior NPP member who distanced himself from the court order saying that "We should be careful in dealing with election results.

The last thing we want to do is to make people lose faith in the electoral process and lose confidence in the democratic dispensation in the country. We don't have the luxury or the time to waste on diversions and things that are destructive to our cohesion as a society. Simply admitting to defeat will help in the future with identifying mistakes and shortcomings and help with the efforts to move to a new and higher level of performance for all of us."

This is sound advice from Pianim but will it cut any ice with the hotheads who want violent street protests through their so called 'back-burner strategies' to take them to State House? Although there were no violent protests, in Kenya the losing candidate also cried foul after defeat but the win of Kenyatta's Jubilee Coalition withstood the court challenge by Odinga's Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). On Tuesday, the country's highest court said although there were irregularities, these were "not so substantial as to affect the credibility of the electoral process." Odinga is reported to have conceded defeat for the sake of national unity.

Indeed, the historic 'battle of the sons' of the Founding President Jomo Kenyatta and his former vice president Oginga Odinga, ended on the 4th of March with the victory of the son of Kenyatta who trounced the son of Odinga. According to a report by Wanhoji Kabukuru, a New African magazine's correspondent, the UhuRuto package connected well with the populace and showcased team dynamics and won because of their message offering a new leadership branded as 'team digital' and painting their opponents as 'analogue' which resonated very well with the voters especially the youth and the working class who liked the 'transformational leadership' mantra that they offered. This is in stark contrast to the 'jobs, jobs, jobs' slogan by the Odinga's Coalition which never gelled with the voters nor registered as a catchphrase, according to Kabukuru.

Indeed, a month before the voter registration kicked off, it was reported that Ruto publicly acknowledged why his United Republican Party (URP) was going to work with The National alliance (TNA) led by Kenyatta to form the next government in the first round.

Odinga's strategists did not take Ruto's sentiments seriously and ignored the import of what he said which was basically that the two ethnic groups of the Kikuyus and the Kalegins which fought pitched battles against one another in 2007- 2008 post-election violence had now buried the hatchet and were keen to work together and reap any peace dividends thereof.

The CORD alliance believed their lead in the opinion polls and the support foreign envoys threatening sanctions were indirectly giving them and ignored Ruto's message. The CORD alliance also ignored the analysis of the numbers and failed to compare these numbers with historical voter trends while the Jubilee's coalition was busy using their spin doctors, communication mavens and prominent bloggers who were tasked to design messages to win the election.

The Kenyan, Ghanaian and Venezuelan elections, teach us that voters prefer a fresh, authentic and capable team to take the country to the next level and they do not take kindly to what they perceived as imperialism through those advancing Western interests and ideologies.

With the looming elections in Southern Africa, surely, the political coalitions opposing the ruling parties of the former liberation movements will not dent the support these parties enjoy as they are widely expected to win with a clean sweep. In the event that there will be post-election legal challenges, an amount of N$2 million has been allocated in the ECN budget for these eventualities. One just hopes that the losing parties will follow Odinga's example of conceding defeat for the sake of national unity and the money will be spent on improving the electoral process. As Pianim advised, simply admitting to defeat will help in the future with identifying mistakes and shortcomings and help with the efforts to move to a new and higher level of performance and indeed, the last thing we want to do is to make people lose faith in the electoral process and lose confidence in the democratic dispensation.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper and are not in any way connected to my position but merely reflect my personal opinion as a citizen.


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