Inner peace for winners, losers in 2021 general elections: Stoic perspective

ALTHOUGH adoptions, certifications and nominations often disrupt interpersonal peaceful coexistence in the electoral process, inner peace is rarely considered as a potential guarantor of interpersonal peaceful coexistence. Inner peace is one of the levels of peace and is the ability to withstand life’s shortcomings by training the mind to enter into a deliberate spiritual and psychological state of calm. It is generally associated with happiness, contentment and bliss and helps people cope with the good and hard times.
According to Ricard, ‘Anyone who enjoys inner peace is no more broken by failure than he is inflated by success.’ As part of our series of monthly
contributions to promoting peace in Zambia and sponsored by the Dag Hammarskjöld Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at the Copperbelt University,
this article on inner peace is specifically linked to adoptions, certification, nominations and elections vis-à-vis the August 12, 2021 general elections (President, National Assembly, mayoral/council chairpersonship, and local government).
Currently in Zambia, elections take place within the framework of a multi-party democracy, a presidential system, elected for a five-year term. Before that, for some political parties, there is a process of adoption, certification, and nomination of the candidates who would stand on their party tickets. The outcome of this process brings joy for those who succeed and sadness for those who do not.
This article focuses on how both winners and losers can maintain inner peace regardless of the outcome of the elections, from a stoic perspective. This perspective rhymes with inner peace as the Stoics feel emotions as given by Nature but do not get overwhelmed by them (Calvin, 2002; Goodrich, 2020). Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy of life that maximises positive emotions, reduces negative emotions and helps individuals to sharpen their virtues of character.
In the recent past, most political parties shared their criteria for selection of potential candidates. This was apart from the requirements in line with the
Electoral Commission of Zambia Act No. 25 of 2016 and the incumbent’s performance during their tenure of office, on which the candidates for the mentioned positions above were adopted.
The most talked-about criterion for adoption was popularity of the candidate seen to have a higher likelihood of winning votes for the respective party.
I will call it the most popular candidate criterion. In almost all those parties, apart from the position of the president, which went unopposed, the other
four-level positions for National Assembly, mayoral, council chairpersonship, and local government had more than one candidate. I will call it the most popular candidate criterion.
It was in circumstances such as these that the most popular candidate criterion was applied.
The test of that popularity was to be deduced from the grassroots level selection. The selected candidate would then be presented to the higher organs of the parties for further verification, after which a decision was made.
In line with the requirement, only one candidate per position would represent the party in the constituencies, councils and local government positions. That is,
each participating political party adopted only one candidate per position in all the required fields.
This raised a number of reactions to the outcome of this political process.
Those who were adopted celebrated and those who were not felt rejected, let down, sad, dejected and sidelined by their party. The incumbents were made to believe they underperformed.
However, in both cases, the most popular candidate criterion was highlighted as a selection benchmark. Hence it implied that the un-adopted candidates were not popular enough. Such
candidates reacted differently, including resigning from their parties and opting to stand as independent candidates. Some embraced their opponents and went along with them to file their nominations. Like those who were adopted, the unsuccessful candidates had their ardent followers too who, sometimes and, perhaps, not surprisingly, reacted in certain ways such as becoming violent against the selected candidates and, in the process, becoming disturbers of the national peace. In such situations, the onus was on those not adopted to stop their supporters from turning violent but, instead, remain patriotic promoters of peace. For those who filed their nominations, this is not the end of your journey.
The trip has just begun. Begin to sustain your inner peace.
Before going into an election for a political position, candidates should understand that they will either win or lose. Also, they should let their supporters know
that either a win or loss is a possible outcome. Even beyond adoption and nomination, after the August 12, 2021 general elections themselves, how should one react to one’s winning or losing? In either case – be it at the adoption and nomination phase or, later, at the general elections stage – it is important that one cultivates one’s inner peace. This allows us to confront life with an open heart and mind; avoid undue negative thoughts and feelings and, in so doing, remaining firmly grounded.
For those who will win during the general elections, they should ensure that they do not gloat but should be sensitive to the feelings of the losing candidates who, like them, are expected to remain patriotic citizens. Further, even the losing candidate, in maintaining her or his calm or equipoise, should find it within themselves to congratulate their
winning opponent. In harmony with the stoic perspective, people cannot choose their external circumstances, but can always choose how they respond to them.
The author is a research fellow at the Dag Hammarskjold Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies