Editor's Comment

Elections: Learn from each other

YESTERDAY must have been one of the happiest days for most Kenyans as Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as President of the East African country after months of political tension before, during and after elections.

The country is, however, still somewhat agonising as the opposition led by Raila Odinga has refused to recognise Mr Kenyatta’s re-election.
The Supreme Court had annulled Mr Kenyatta’s re-election during the August elections and a re-run was ordered. Mr Odinga pulled out of the re-run because he felt that the Independent Elections Board had not reformed to hold free and credible elections, making Mr Kenyatta almost unopposed.
This situation of losers in an election drifting into denial is not unique to Kenya. Several other countries in Africa, and in other parts of the world too, have gone through this kind of post-election rift.
In the most recent United States of America presidential election, Donald Trump’s victory was tainted by allegations of vote rigging with the help of Russia. The allegations of undermining the world’s most renowned democracy have been denied and not substantiated.
The USA was the least expected to be a victim of any form of election interference, least of all external.
What happened in the USA shows that democracy is still maturing in the world and Africa is learning its lessons fairly well as it makes progress in democratisation.
The continent has embraced democracy to ensure that leaders are enthroned through the ballot in free and fair elections.
Although there are some countries still struggling with the tenets of democracy, Africa is generally on the right track. That is why President Lungu says democracy is evolving in Africa, and the will of the people should always be respected after elections.
Indeed, there are some citizens of the continent who still need to come to terms with the fact that the outcome of elections may at times be different from their strong expectations.
As President Lungu has said, countries are gradually learning from each other and refining their respective elections.
There is still need to refine the electoral processes but the bigger challenge could actually be the need for respective citizens to understand these processes. This is so because some protests over election outcomes could be out of ignorance.
Sensitisation of electoral laws must be upped.
And talking about laws, it is important that countries respect the decisions of the courts, which are arbitrators in election disputes, which seem to be on an increase as various countries consolidate their democracy.
As President Kenyatta said yesterday during his inauguration, his party believed it won the initial round of elections but respected the court ruling to annul the polls.
Similar adherence to court rulings is evident in Liberia where a second round of presidential elections was put on hold after one of the candidates took the matter to court, alleging anomalies in the first round.
The rest of African countries can learn from both the Kenyan and Liberian experiences. Similarly, other countries can learn from Zambia’s 2016 poll, which were widely endorsed as free and fair.
Losing an election, or indeed any other contest, is painful. There is, however, no need for the losers to unnecessarily cry foul. If they strongly feel the need to protest, they should do so through the courts of law. The outcome of the courts must be respected.
A major consolation is that democracy provides for another chance after a specified period.
Michael Sata, the founder of the Patriotic Front (PF) and immediate past President of Zambia, proved to the country and possibly the rest of the continent that you can win an election if you have the right message for the electorate.
There is life after elections.

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