On air: Why are we rewarding leaders who lose elections?

In Kenya following disputed elections in December last year President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner. Observers said it was deeply flawed and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement claimed the election was rigged. More than 600,000 people were displaced and 1,500 were killed in ethnic violence. A power sharing deal was finally signed placing the opposition leader Raila Odinga as Prime Minister and Mwai Kibaki as President

Just a few months on Zimbabwe seems to be repeating the pattern. Today Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power sharing deal...

What incentive does this give to other leaders to hold free and fair elections? Does this send the signal out to all leaders if they don’t want to relinquish power, despite losing an election, they don’t have to? Or is this an idealistic and not realistic view? Is it better to avoid further violence and bring all sides together to take the fortunes of a country forward?

31 Responses to “On air: Why are we rewarding leaders who lose elections?”

  1. 1 Robert
    September 15, 2008 at 14:38

    Allowing a loser in a close fought election some power is not a problem, many European countries have this in the form of a coalition governmnets and have in place strict rules for how they work.

    The problem is that the rules for the coalitions in Kenya’s and Zimbabwe’s are made up after the election. An election can not be fair and democratic if the rules are changed repeatly during and afterwards.

  2. 2 Chipie
    September 15, 2008 at 15:06

    I have been against this idea from the start, we are setting up an extremely dangerous precedent, whats the point of voting when the leaders who are copeteing are going to rule together anyways.African leaders are greedy and these power sharing deals dont help at all – the solution is to have free and fare elections where there is only one winner and the loser has to accept and let go, isnt that what democracy is about?
    As much as i agree that the people of Zimbabwe are the main beneficiaries to this agreement but i also feel this is going to cause problems in the long run.
    Malawi votes next year, i therefore urge all Malawian to try and not go this route.

  3. 3 Bob in Queensland
    September 15, 2008 at 15:15

    But ARE we rewarding people who lost? I think the main point here is that in both the examples you cite, the elections themselves were extremely suspect. Do we really know the true results?

  4. September 15, 2008 at 15:20

    The events following the respective elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe shows that elections should reflect the will of the people and not that of the leaders for whom elections are just a façade to stay in power.

    Leaders with common sense should be ready for victory and defeat and not to feel defiant when winning or to call for violence when losing. It’s all a matter of playing a fair game for the benefit of the country and not for personal benefit.

    The drawback of the rulers in Africa is that when they get grip of power they create an oligarchy through which they try to stifle all sorts of opposition. Their weapon is repression.

    The examples of Zimbabwe and Kenya show it is just a waste of lives, opportunities and time to fail to settle the results of an election fairly. There is no harm in power sharing for the sake of a country. The greatest harm is when political differences generate into violence setting the country backward and making any national reconciliation hard to achieve without concession and international mediation.

    The hope is that Zimbabwe will raise from its current fall in dire economic difficulties and that all the Zimbabweans can benefit from the wealth their renewed economy can afford.

  5. September 15, 2008 at 15:21

    This is very good question to Nepali politicians as well. Because in Nepal we have several minister including vice Prime Minister and Home Minster got success to become minister in newly formed government despite losing an election.

    This is the question of morality and faith to the people? In Nepal, politicians always think that they are upper class citizens and they have all right to decide anything.

    People are not rewarding but part leaders themselves are playing the game of politics without morality and honesty in all over the world.

  6. September 15, 2008 at 15:21

    Well I would think G.W.Bush might have an answer for this.
    @Robert, that an elected party chooses to share its power is one thing, but the point is here is the magnanimous attitude by those who lose the election to let the winning party have a say. Which is such a disgrace that it’s laughable.
    But again, as in so many things, America has led the way!


  7. 7 roebert
    September 15, 2008 at 15:21

    The Zim elections were hardly extremely suspect. It was clear to everyone that Mugabe heavily influenced the vote in his favour by open intimidation, in the second round even more than in the first.

    I don’t think these leaders are going to be rewarded in any way. They will simply lead their country into deepening darkness, misery and poverty. Unless Tsvangirai is what he purports to be: an honest representative of the Zim people. But that perception must take a knock now that he is in bed with the Mugabe regime.

    Of course, it might all turn out well in the end. But I don’t see it.

  8. September 15, 2008 at 15:59

    A very dangerous precedent is being set in Africa and else where. The message is manipulate election results and hang on to power through power sharing. This is simply a palliative measure. There are serious long term consequences waiting around the corner in the future. First Kenya, now Zimbabwe so which country will the next?

  9. September 15, 2008 at 16:17

    Rewarding people who loose in a close election is a way to keep people united. However, rewarding people who use violence and corrupt techniques is very damaging to the system.

  10. 10 Dinka Alpayo ,kampala
    September 15, 2008 at 16:36

    The reasons we awards these leaders was for the safety of innocent people, protection of our wealths and there was no another way anyway unless they people take-up arms to bring down these governments by a uses of violences means but is either to fell or win that war and is too costive , too long to achieves the goals, so leaving them in power is thought to be a better options either you opposition might find yourself imprison for accussations of terrorisms,treasons charges,Corruptions.Raping accussation ETC.

  11. 11 Shirley
    September 15, 2008 at 16:49

    When the world cares more about the financial success of its rich and powerful than about heeding the democratic voice of the people, we end up rewarding those who lose elections. I personally feel that it started in the U.S. in 2000 and continued in 2004. If the U.S. can accept the results of an election so flawed as to be compared to thrd world elections by international elections observers, then nothing should surprise us.

  12. 12 Jonathan Ochako, Nairobi Kenya
    September 15, 2008 at 17:44

    yes, sure ask why do we have to reward leaders who loose…….but have you ever though of us the citizens who suffer unless these useless blokes are given what it is they want…….we reward the leaders to alow ourselves to move on…..fight for our daily bread….live from hand to mouth……the conditions we are subject to leaves us no choice but to accept the outcome and let them both if not all sit at the helm so that we just are able to live……….POST ELECTION VIOLENCE IN KENYA was a nightmare and we learned the hard way, you cant beat them so just let them be…

  13. September 15, 2008 at 18:03

    This move absolutely demonstrates to political leaders in emerging democracies that through the use of violence they can maintain their grip on power despite having lost an election.

  14. 14 Elias Lostrom
    September 15, 2008 at 18:05

    Have they all gone mad? Can no one remember the “deal” poor old Joshua Knomo made with Mugabe? He ended up being completely sidelined after the 5th Brigade ravaged Matabeleland.

    Can a leopard change it’s spots?

    Morgan, watch your back…

  15. 15 Jesse Faciana
    September 15, 2008 at 18:07

    It absolutely says to world leaders, ” Do as you want. you will not have consequences for inciting terror or holding a country hostage.”
    Its shameful. From where I am sitting, this has been a bad year for democracy.

  16. 16 Tonye ( pronounced: Tawn-yay)
    September 15, 2008 at 18:10

    Mugabe had several decades to get things done and make whatever impact he needed to make. Other nations have relatively short term limits and they seem to get things right. This power-sharing deal is an ignorant joke, and, unfortunately, only proves to the rest of the world that Africans can’t get anything right! As an African, I am highly dismayed, and disgusted!

  17. September 15, 2008 at 18:14

    I believe that the reason Mugabe wont leave office is because of all of the thugs who depend on his lagesse to live their big fat lives. He has thousands on his payroll. They are the ones who will not back off and let democracy move forward.

  18. 18 rotoye richard
    September 15, 2008 at 18:17

    we Africans have a different way of doing things, we will become fully democratic but in our own way. It is a gradual thing.if we rush it we will fail. Let there be gradual transition. then we will get it right. in Africa leaders are begged to relinquish power. when they go we can adjust to the new government. if we try to kick them out. tribal and religious sentiments come to play and then crises will set in…the entire world should understand that Africa is democratising slowly. we will get there.

  19. September 15, 2008 at 18:24

    The European Union ignored Ireland when they voted “NO” to The Lisbon Treaty. Surely this is much the same? We have no say on the outcome only the unelected leaders?

    Peter from Kent in the UK

  20. 20 Venessa
    September 15, 2008 at 18:31

    Money & intimidation rule the masses. As long as you have enough to pay the right people such individuals will be rewarded by way of corruption.

  21. 21 Tonye
    September 15, 2008 at 18:32

    I’m sorry.
    I’m sick of my fellow Africans constantly using the stupid excuse that ‘we do things our own way’ . B.S.!!!
    When the so-called ‘our own way’ has been proven to not work… repeatedly…resulting in poverty, hunger, death, brain-drain, and destruction to our educational and economic systems, it’s time to try something else!

    Western systems have not worked well for us either, so it’s time to find GOOD IDEAS, either they are new African solutions (which I strongly feel we haven’t fully explored), better outside solutions or a combination thereof. We need strong solutions NOW, and be done with this useless detrimental complascency!
    WAKE UP, we are rapidly getting left behind !

  22. September 15, 2008 at 19:27

    It’s high time democracy got disinfected of capitalist syndrom of “winner takes all.” those called ‘losers’ are also voted by some voters hence we need to consider all players on board somewhat.

  23. 23 Tonye
    September 15, 2008 at 19:37

    Then shouldn’t Tsvangeri be head of state and Mugabe step down to a lower pwer sharing position?

    Should Usain Bolt give his gold medal to someone else and accept the BRONZE … and be happy?

    Some of this reasoning borders on brain-damage.

  24. 24 Shirley
    September 15, 2008 at 21:54

    Tonye, I do wish that we could hear more from you on our Talking Points and Blank pages.

  25. 25 Pangolin- California
    September 15, 2008 at 23:12

    Calling a bit of political theatre an election does not make it so. It’s like gambling with a man who has a gun pointed at your head. If the cards show he wins, he takes your money, if the cards show he loses, he takes your money anyway.

    I agree with those who point out that since the corrupt US elections of 2000 and 2004 the pressure to hold honest elections in smaller states has been reduced to zero.

    Anybody who believes the results of an election without open, observable and fair vote counting is having problems with reality. When the powers that be take the ballots into a room, or put them through a computer, then come out and announce that they have won you can bet that the election is bogus.

    You don’t like the result? Talk to the gun.

  26. 26 Iddi Musyemi
    September 16, 2008 at 06:00

    As this debate is going on, the precedent is already set. So its been passed by the events!
    But it is scaring how fast its taking roots in the so called democratic African countries. Democracy has very little to do with people or even their will. When one man wants power he will do everything he can to get it. First of all he will start by trying to rally “his” people to support him, buy others, corrupt the offices responsible for ensuring fairness in the process and if worst comes to it, rally the society against each other! That is democracy in its nudity.
    Power sharing is equally as evil as flawed democratic process. But when given the option between having a thief of electoral process for a leader and some ceding of constitutional powers to the person from whom the crime was committed against, I am fine with the latter rather than the former.
    Power sharing is a creature borne of flawed electoral process, so I think its acceptable and necessary, even though ugly, to have it and then make it better from there!

  27. 27 John in Germany
    September 16, 2008 at 10:46

    Diplomacy in Zimbabwe? Come on not in a thousand years. A looser has become a winner through force, and greed. A winner has been forced to accept the loosers prize. Notice Mr Mugabe has control of the army, what story does that tell. and how long will it be before the military is used for purposes that have nothing to do with defence?.

    The poor, sick, and dying have gained nothing, what will be left over for them when the power club has been paid? not one, but two. Pressure should have been applied at the beginning ensuring that the true winner of the election, was put into position.
    Diplomacy sounds today like, you take the high road, ill take the high road as long as we get there together, no matter who is in the right.

    Funny. all completed when the eyes of the world were on Obama.

    John in Germany.

  28. 28 Mary Eboigbe
    September 16, 2008 at 11:17

    I think peace is cheaper than violence.
    If Tsvangirai is comfortable with the peace deal, i think the rest of the world should support him.
    He has come from being the most popular opposition leader to be a partner in progress.
    His acceptance speech was clear and specific.His intention is to turn around the economy of Zimbabwe, especially curbing the food shortage and he is in a hurry to do so.
    The world should lend their support as no development can take place in an atomsphere of rancour.

  29. 29 Mary Eboigbe
    September 16, 2008 at 11:29

    Let us give Mr. Tsvangirai our support. I do not see him as one who can be shut or easily shoved aside.

    He believes he can make Zimbabwe work. It wont be easy , though i am highly optimistic that it would lead somewhere.

    I am a Nigerian, writing from Nigeria(Naija).

  30. 30 John in Germany
    September 16, 2008 at 15:28

    @ Mary.

    Agreed he should be fully supported by the rest of the world, and he will do his best, but why should it be made so hard for the man. In reality he won the election, in reality he should be the president, then it would be much easier for him to carry out his prommisses. Sadly he will have a continuous fight with Mr Mugabe, whose body language told the whole story at the signing of the treaty-agreement. The man does not care a damn for the Zimbabwean people, but just for himself and his clan.

    As i said before- the fact that Mr Mugabe is in charge of the army says enough.
    Mr Tsvangiria deserves all the luck, and support he can get. Just one problem he is in charge of the police, and we have seen what they are capable of. He will be in the position to be blamed for things that are going to happen in the future. Can he really be sure of their loyalty?. The army is fully behind Mr Mugabe, or ?.

    So please join in and give Mr Tsvangiria all best wishes, health, a keen eye to see who is with him or not. Mostly the clear cut support of all other countries, without when’ or if’s.

    John in Germany

  31. September 16, 2008 at 22:42

    From afar what this political marriage brokered by Mbeki seem,s to signify is one of political convenience to try and help both sides in Zimbabwe out of incompatible political mates after Mugabe lost the election! One could have expected the Broker to have pointed to his own example of stepping down after losing just the Political Party election. Mugabe has done ill to his people, his country and to democracy by showing insatiable greed for power even after 5 terms! He is a very bad exmple for any country. And his country is in utter economic and social ruin. He may not be solely to blame as his land policies had upset the ‘apple cart’ . Only time will tell whether he means true sharing of power or if is trying to exploit the situation to get the economy running again and ditch Tsvengarai enroute using strong arm tactics since defence and police are still under his ‘good care’. If these were under the new partner there may have been room for better credibilty.

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