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Both poll winners and losers need psycho-social support

Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Kenyans elect their new leaders today. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) registered and published a total of 16,100 candidates to vie for all the six elective positions via Kenya gazette notice CXXIV No. 129 “A” dated July 1, 2022.

A deeper statistical analysis of the list shows that 11,574 candidates are fronted by 78 registered political parties while 4,526 are independent candidates save for a number of cases challenging the registration of candidates still being active in various courts. This number compares to the 14,543 candidates registered in the 2017 General Election.

The elephant in the room is that only 1,882 candidates will win elections. Those are the only seats available as per the Constitution. Bearing in mind the investment put in by individual candidates, some critical questions beg for answers: What happens to those who lose elections? What will be the response of those who win?

Some election losers may take it graciously and move on, others will refuse to accept the outcome of the result, others will seek legal redress by filing petitions, others will be devastated and therefore be thrown completely off life balance while others will remain in a state of consternation and have no idea what next or whom to turn to.

If unchecked, others might fall into depression, while others will withdraw. There will also be those who will regret having participated in the election and sold their properties and used all their savings. Winners will of course celebrate. But some celebrations can go beyond normal where winners demean the losers and mock them.

To maintain a balanced nation, both winners and losers should approach the election outcome prepared and with the sobriety. There must be a calculated move to prepare for either outcome and get ready with action plan on how to move on. After all, elections are about winning or losing.

Managing expectations should start with a personal analysis of both scenarios. A candidate should attempt to answer the following questions: What will I do if I win and what will I do if I lose? What will I tell my supporters? Am I prepared to lodge a petition? Do I have an acceptance speech? Do I have a conceding speech which includes congratulating the winner? What is my social support system in case I lose the election? It should be noted that winners have many friends and many people willing to celebrate but still it is important to prepare for social support when you win otherwise a win is still overwhelming.

The importance of psycho-social support within immediate candidates’ social sphere, with political parties and other duty bearers cannot be gainsaid as every expectation or outcome needs to be managed and eventually accepted. The media can have narrative sessions that provide a platform for the contestants to share their experiences and in turn act as a source of encouragement for their loss.

Additionally, post-election evaluation is important in highlighting the lessons learnt and setting the pace for the next electoral cycle. The services of professional counsellors are critical to prevent election losers and winners going far away from coming back to the reality of life. In both cases, quick return to normal is important so that we can move on as individuals and as a nation. The winners will definitely have an uphill task to fulfill the campaign promises.

The Office of Registrar of Political Parties with support of other partners has set pace by developing and disseminating an all-encompassing Kenya’s Political Education Source Book unveiled in July, 2022. In the book, a chapter has been dedicated to managing election outcomes that seeks to give easy tips and strategies on how best to reposition oneself as candidates and even his/her social support system upon the two only outcomes in an elective contest- winning or losing. 

These interventions invite further multi-agency and multi-sectoral discussions and engagements on this important subject with a view to institutionalise and standardise necessary interventions. The outcome of such important deliberations will also play a critical segment to the various sectoral post-election evaluation reports that are crucial in informing subsequent election management and conduct. It is incumbent upon the candidates sponsoring political parties to strive to be ready and embrace either outcome in an election. This is aptly captured by Wilma Rudolph’s quote that, winning is great sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose.

-Ms Nderitu is the Registrar of Political Parties 

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