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Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

235 The Unity Frame of

235 The Unity Frame of 1999 in the newspapers‟ corpus also exhibits the domineering position of moral judgements among editorial writers. The newspapers accused politicians of lacking in the will to unite the divided nation. The UDF, in particular, was portrayed as uninterested in unity and cooperation. Considering that the violence raging in the aftermath of the elections was the closest Malawi had come to civil war, it is not surprising that moral evaluations were high in the newspapers corpus. Another source of the moral evaluations was the Electoral Process Frame in 1999. It was generally agreed across all newspapers that the MEC had failed in their all-important function of delivering a free and fair election. Of necessity, the newspapers provided commentary that condemned, in moral terms, the conduct of the MEC. In the parliamentary corpus of 1999, with the opposition absent to offer any counter-arguments and counter-frames, the UDF MPs were self-congratulatory. It is no surprise that no problem definitions emerged. The moral evaluations which emerged were either self-praising or condemned the MCP for human rights violations and incompetence during the MCP‟s rule which ended in 1994 (See Table 7.2). Of course in discussing the 1999 parliamentary corpus, the moral evaluations discussed above were linked to positive causal attributions which praised Muluzi and the UDF (See Table 7.2). It is worth noting that the parliamentary corpus of 1999 is the only corpus in which causal interpretations emerged with the most paragraphs. As noted above, the causal attributions in both frames in the corpus were positive towards the UDF. They basically subscribed to the tendency identified by Arkin & Shepperd (1990) to take responsibility for success and denying responsibility for failures. Further, in the 1999 parliamentary corpus, by identifying their party as responsible for resolving the economic and governance problems that Malawians were facing as a result of the MCP‟s rule up to 1994, the UDF MPs confirmed Iyengar‟s (1987, p.829)

236 argument that framing in political communication plays an important role in shaping the public‟s understanding of who is responsible for causing or resolving a social problem. Further, the UDF MPs causal attribution process confirmed Bradbury and Fincham (1990) argument that during times of conflict, there is a tendency to attribute blame to others. As noted in this paragraph, the UDF MPs effectively apportioned blame on the MCP for all of Malawi‟s problems while praising their party for straightening up things. 7.2.2 Narrow Problem Definitions Facilitating Moral Evaluations In the 2004 case study, the Moral Evaluation components in the newspapers corpus had the largest amount of paragraphs coded to them. However, the treatment recommendation components had five paragraphs less of the moral evaluations. This state of affairs can be attributed to the Electoral Process Frame which had the combined problem definition/causal interpretation component and the moral evaluation/treatment recommendation component which effectively eliminated the emergence of separate problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and treatment recommendation components (See Table 7.2). The distribution of paragraphs across components presents an interpretive challenge. It is important to note that while different frames advanced different problem definitions, there was no discursive tension or disagreement about the core of the problems facing Malawi as a nation in 2004. All newspapers identified inefficiency by the previous government led by Dr. Bakili Muluzi, fiscal indiscipline and corruption as the dominant problem the nation and the new president and his government needed to deal with. In essence, such a fairly uncontested definition of the problem also meant that the treatment recommendations across the frame would be narrow. Since Dr. Muluzi and his government were no longer in power and because a new government promising

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