February 1, 2020—On Monday next week, the High Court in Lilongwe sitting as the Constitutional Court will deliver judgement on the elections case. In the case, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and his MCP counterpart Lazarus Chakwera who are first and second petitioners, respectively, are seeking nullification of the May 21 Presidential elections. The two have argued in court that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) fraudulently gifted the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Peter Mutharika with victory.
On his part Mutharika as the first respondent says he won the election fair and square, while MEC which is the second respondent, says it acquitted itself well in the manner it organized the elections.
The 60 days—spread over six months—during which the five a five-judge panel has held the case, have been long and rough both in and outside the court. But after all the political shenanigans and court runs, it is now finally up to the five judges—Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu, Dingiswayo Madise and Mike Tembo—to throw the joker. And it is double edged knife which will hurt one side, either way. So there will be both mourning and celebration from Monday. Stakeholders have been preparing the people to brace for anything and accept the ruling honorably and peacefully—if the judgement is against them. And if they are victorious celebrate with dignity.
There is no knowing who will carry the day. The closer we head towards the moment of truth, the tenser it is becoming. Tomorrow and Sunday are like the five days after the May 21 Elections when MEC started announcing results and then halted the process only to resume on May 27 to announce the winner without convincing the electorates how it had dealt with the 145 electoral complaints lodged with it.
Three days before the May 21 elections, Professor Chiwoza Bandawe gave tips in his column in this paper on how candidates, their supporters and families could prepare psychologically for defeat. I wish Prof Bandawe wrote again regarding the psychological effects of the ruling on the elections case. But he has not.
I therefore took excerpts of his article we published in the May 18, 2019 issue of Weekend Nation. You may find them important.
“What steps can be taken now to prepare yourself psychologically for possible defeat? I would like to give attention to the issue of handling losing an election.
The first thing to bear in mind is that your value and your worth as a human being is not dependent on the outcome of the election. If you lose, it does not demean you as a person or make you worthless. Whilst defeat can be painful, do not put your value as a person in the hands of others. You carry the breath of God in you, which is enough value in itself. Second, prepare for the possibility of defeat. Save some money and have a financial plan should you lose. How will you sustain yourself in the midst of defeat? Third, remember that there are those who believed in you and voted for you.
Fourth, enjoy and learn from the experience. The process of campaigning, meeting people and debating as well as strategising will enrich you psychologically as a person. Take this and learn from it. It does not mean all the money and time would have gone to waste. You would have gained many life lessons and experiences that cannot be costed.
It is important to also understand in advance the five stages of emotional response to election defeat. The first response is shock. This is part of the denial process. Those who were not elected find it hard to accept or believe that they have lost. They are often in a daze. The level of shock is determined by the extent to which they believed they would win the election. If they were convinced of victory then the shock is greater. The second response is anger.
Losers start questioning why they lost. They may feel a sense of betrayal by the electorate, by those close to them and may even question whether they as persons contributed to the election results.
The third response stage is bargaining. Here they start to come to terms with the results. They start analysing and renegotiating in their minds the reality of what has happened. This may take some time.
The fourth stage is mourning. The person or supporters feel depressed and sad. The pain of losing becomes very real and they have to go through the “dark night of the soul” or the “valley of the shadow of death”. Support and encouragement is vital at this time. Finally there is acceptance where the loser accepts defeat and plans to carry on with life, albeit not as they would have wanted it. Accepting defeat
is a very brave thing to do and is a true sign of leadership.
Resorting to violence is a sign of weakness and lack of patriotism.
Put your country before yourself first.”