The above words are perhaps the greatest modern-day threat to democracy. We all must be vigilant when anyone running for office says an election is rigged unless they win.
We don’t have a perfect country, but it is the only one we have. Those claiming to be loyal, proud Namibians are obliged to make sure this country operates according to the constitution. Those proved to have broken the law or calling for the law to be broken, must be held accountable.
In the USA, presidential candidate Donald Trump is stoking (and perhaps hoping for) a violent insurrection after national elections in November. He is trying several ‘tactics’ to help him win. He said, many times, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”
Donald Trump’s white, alt-right wing supporters include those who own many assault rifles and have a lot of hate. They have no difficulty using their guns to kill anyone they decide needs killing. Trump’s words tend to let such brutal, ignorant people off their leashes. Leaders often claim innocence after urging their followers to do horrendous things against political opponents. The law however, is not so easily led. Those calling for violence can be held as culpable as those actually doing the violence in their name.
Namibian candidates must not follow Trump’s style of provocative, irresponsible banter. That could lead to destructive civil unrest.
Anyone vying for political office that makes statements instigating unrest does not love their country; they love themselves only.
If there are concerns about illegalities around vote casting, voter intimidation, vote counting or policing the integrity of the voting process, then there are legal paths to follow to address it.
If there are rumours in Namibia about the ‘flooding’ of local areas by people who are not from there to register in some mystical way, then make a case. Those who think this is happening must take legal action. Get organized, present evidence, take photos, find whistle-blowers, ‘obtain’ documents, tape interviews of witnesses and t hen, lay charges.
Throwing out emotive statements can provoke unexpected reactions. It is not unusual when a few insecure individuals at lower power levels in a group, act out in the extreme to ‘win’ approval from above. They want to be seen as more loyal than anyone else. Leaders must watch what they say lest they set these people off.
Certainly, rigging elections is not unheard of. Belarus is a current example. Those people are in full rebellion against their ‘president’ of 26 years, Alexander Lukashenko. He was arrogant and his political machine sloppily and blatantly changed election results in his favour. The people will not accept him as president and violent clashes are in their future.
It is important to remain vigilant and demand transparency in electoral processes. We must shout, demonstrate and insist that rules are made fairly and then followed. Democracy must be protected by those who claim to value it.
If a candidate ‘expects’ to win with 90 percent and only achieves 50 percent, it is denial to whine about election fraud first. Most likely, that candidate was not as popular as they may have thought. Assumptions about universal high esteem (“everybody here loves me!”) is the first step on a leader’s path to self-destruction.
Most people tend to be allergic to public confrontation; they lie and prevaricate to avoid it. It is not unusual for politicians to think they are more popular than is the case as everyone around them smiles and tells them that everyday.
But, when citizens are alone in the ballot box they answer only to themselves and God. They vote their hearts. They can come out of the polling place, hug the candidate and swear ever-lasting loyalty to him/her. None of that guarantees an election win.
Candidates must avoid the emotion generated by the adoring, cheering crowds. They must stay above it all and steer clear from declaring victory before the votes are cast or counted. To do otherwise is a threat to democracy.
All candidates must loudly and firmly pledge to respect the results of the polls. Everyone, regardless of party, must fight hard to make sure the electoral process is free and fair. Too many people fought and died to have one person, one vote in Namibia. We must honour that sacrifice and love our country more.