Thursday, May 09, 2013

Opposition and opposing
By Editor
Wed 08 May 2013, 15:10 CAT

When elections are over, the losers must accept the judgment of the voters. If the incumbent party loses, it must turn over power peacefully.

Not accepting that one has lost an election is very dangerous because it leads to negative politics and behaviour. An opposition that fails to accept the decision and will of the voters will have serious difficulties co-operating with those in government in solving the problems of the nation.

Those who fail to truly accept election results have a tendency to behave as if they are the winners. There is a big problem when the loser starts to behave like the winner. This creates confusion and may lead to anarchy. It is important to accept one's position in life at every stage or turn. You cannot be a loser and be a winner at the same time.

And Wynter Kabimba has a point when he says that "we also have to ensure that those who remain in the opposition after losing must also accept defeat. Don't pretend you have won. We must ensure that the losers accept that they have lost and the winners must not oppress the losers but include them in the governance system".

As we have repeatedly stated before, one of the most difficult concepts for some of our politicians to accept is that of the "loyal opposition". Hakainde Hichilema, president of the UPND, has rejected outright and denounced this concept and called us all sorts of names for advancing it. This idea is a vital one, however. It means, in essence, that all sides in our multi-party political dispensation share a common commitment to its basic values. Political competitors, as we have repeatedly stated before, don't necessarily have to like each other, but they must tolerate one another and acknowledge that each has a legitimate and important role to play. Moreover, the ground role of the society must encourage tolerance and civility in political discourse or debate.

No matter who wins or loses an election, both sides must agree to co-operate in solving the common problems of our country. Those in the opposition can continue to participate in public life, with the knowledge that their role is essential in any multi-party political setup worthy of the name. They are loyal, not to the specific policies of the political party in power or the government, but to the fundamental legitimacy of the state, and to the democratic process itself.

As the next election comes around, opposition parties and their leaders will again have the opportunity to compete for power. Multi-party elections, after all, are not a fight for survival, but a competition to serve.

A multi-party political dispensation needs the commitment of citizens and politicians who accept the inevitability of electoral defeats as well as the necessity for accepting such losses.

It is for this reason that a culture of democracy is so important to develop. Those who enter multi-party elections must accept defeat when they lose an election and support the winners in their efforts to improve the living conditions of the people and develop the country in general. The common good is the reason for the existence of political parties and other political, social and economic institutions. It enables people to express commitment and concern for each other as well as attain the fullness of love. Common good calls upon all persons to contribute and commit themselves responsibly to building a peaceful and just society for all. This happens when our politicians and their supporters accept election defeats and co-operate with the winners in promoting the common good. Political power must have as its aim the achievement of the common good. The whole reason for the existence of political parties should be the realisation of the common good. Everyone should be concerned to create and support institutions that improve the conditions of life.

A government that is being unjustifiably undermined every day cannot be expected to deliver on its obligations to the people. If something is good for the people, is good for the country, it deserves the support of all regardless of political affiliation. With or without us, what is for the good of the country, for the common good, deserves support. As we have already stated, the political competition in a multi-party political dispensation is not about survival; it is about service. If those in power are providing a good service to the people, they deserve the support of all, including the opposition. Doing so will not deprive the opposition of an opportunity to win the next election. Those in the opposition should learn to wish those in government well. If they are patriots, they should wish to see their country succeed, with or without them in government. They should not look to defeat the ruling party on the back of national failure. There will always be sufficient grounds without that to argue for their removal. This is patriotism, a special virtue, part of the virtue of piety, by which we have a real devotion and love for our homeland and for our fellow citizens. By this virtue, a true love is shown by seeking the good of the country. True patriotism is not to be a blind virtue. It understands that defects exist in nature and human institutions.

Today, we have in our country an opposition that simply opposes everything and anything that those in government try to do. It doesn't matter how good or well-meaning, simply because it is being done by those in government, that is opposed by the opposition. Maybe we should change the name 'opposition' in our reference to political parties that are not in power; probably that is when they will realise that they have got a bigger role to play than just opposing everything and anything that those in government say or do; that they have a duty to co-operate in solving the common problems of our country.

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