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Healing post-poll political wounds

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Lazarus Chakwera

With the heckling and exchange of bitter words that characterised the campaign ahead of the June 23 2020 fresh presidential election now over, it is clear the Tonse Alliance government faces another tough assignment ahead.

It has to heal the nation from political wounds suffered during the campaign.

Political psychologist Jennifer Graham says post-election grief and resentment are real and can survive the election.

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The Tonse Alliance-led government knows pretty well that Malawians face long odds in dealing with the critical problems of poverty, resource-constrained health systems, growing economic inequality, sexual and gender-based violence and public insecurity, among others.

However, it will be nearly impossible for them to deal with these without first dealing with the deep political divisions and polarisation that now seem to characterise every post-election period.

Hence, the aftermath of the May 2019 elections and the court-sanctioned June 23 2020 fresh presidential poll should be an important avenue for all stakeholders to reflect on their respective roles.

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Political parties need to seriously and critically take stock of their conduct in order to permanently heal and remain a force to reckon with for future elections.

This entails facing the realities of the political landscape, accepting the outcome of the fresh election, re-energising and reinvigorating their relevance to the voters in readiness for future elections.

It is against this background that the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) initiated engagement exercises with leaders of political parties on post-election healing to generate evidence and knowledge for promoting peaceful coexistence.

Through the exercise, which has been christened Malawi’s 2020 Fresh Presidential Elections: Towards Peaceful, Free and Fair Electoral Process and is being funded by a German charity Misereor, CCJP wants to assist political parties to come to terms with the results of the immediate past elections.

CCJP National Coordinator, Boniface Chibwana, says the aftermath of any election is a critical moment for reflection for the rebuilding of the socio-political fabric.

Chibwana emphasises that investigating and monitoring the prevailing political situation following an election may be significant to gauge the threats and potential hiccups to peace-building and social cohesion.

“However, this is not adequate if there is no deeper engagement and interaction with political parties, which are primary actors in peace building and social cohesion entrenchment, on the level of post-election healing,” Chibwana says.

He says the engagement exercise will aim at helping political parties to reflect on their conduct and behaviours and the impact this may have on future elections and on peace building.

CCJP also intends to learn from political parties on their experiences on peace building and social cohesion before, during and after the elections and further get a better understanding of peace-building initiatives taken by political parties during the previous elections.

Chibwana says political healing for political parties and their followers is the foundation of peace-building and social cohesion following a national election.

However, he laments that Malawi has not invested much in the political healing of integral actors such as political parties, political leaders and the larger political followership.

“It is believed that this brings about political healing for political parties, as such determines their resilience for future democratic competitions such as presidential, parliamentary and Local Government elections.

“Experience and practice in much of Africa and Malawi, in particular, has shown that outstanding and unattended political problems and concerns emanating from the elections potentially affect future elections,” he explains.

Chibwana adds that an engagement, through an investigative study, on the experiences, perceptions and views of political parties before, during and after the elections is central to understanding the future of peace-building and social cohesion in Malawi.

He says underlying social, economic and political factors and elements influencing the behaviour of political parties towards such phenomena as political or electoral violence have an institutional impact on efforts to promote peace and social cohesion.

“Effectively, the engagement of political parties and political leaders will help promote peaceful coexistence between victorious and losing candidates,” he says.

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