Third Eye

Even in political shifts, let’s address challenges

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021 00:00 |
Opposition leader Raila Odinga campaigns for BBI in Kilifi county last year. Photo/PD/FILE

The season of political realignments is already underway with the General Election just about one year away. 

Ahead of the poll, the fractured ruling Jubilee party has already hinted that it is working towards a coalition with Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, signaling a major shift on the political landscape.

With Deputy President (DP) William Ruto and his allies effectively jettisoned from Jubilee, they have found refuge in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), which the DP will likely use as his vehicle to mount a spirited campaign for the presidency in 2022.

Heightened political activity despite restrictions imposed on gatherings to curb the spread of Covid-19,  is due to the realisation that it may not be possible to hold a referendum before the General Election; constitutionally programmed to be held on the second Tuesday of August next year.

Plans for a referendum were thrown into jeopardy when the High Court declared the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) unconstitutional, rattling the political establishment. The matter is now before the Court of Appeal, its fate uncertain. 

It is this uncertainty that has prompted political realignments and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has declared that it has started preparations for the 2022 elections.

IEBC is again in focus as electoral justice and divisive elections were key issues in the BBI’s nine-point agenda, which noted that the country almost comes to a standstill every five-year election cycle, degenerating into ethnic polarisation, often with violence and an economic slowdown.

The commission presided over disputed elections in 2013 and 2017 and was discredited for its handling of the presidential election in the last elections, which was annulled by the Supreme Court. 

As currently constituted, IEBC does not seem to inspire confidence in a nation expecting nothing less than free, fair, transparent and accountable elections. 

One hopes that the ongoing interviews to fill the three vacant commissioners positions and the recently launched IEBC Strategic Plan and Election Preparation Plan 2020-2024 with a roadmap, timelines and key activities could help cure the ills that have dogged the electoral system. 

However, beyond electoral justice, the political class owes citizens a change in conduct ahead of 2022, the political realignments notwithstanding.

They must faithfully adhere to the Constitution, halt ethnic antagonism and promote inclusivity.

Critically, at a time when the country and the whole world is still reeling from the devastating impact of Covid-19, the leadership needs to prioritise curbing the virus and rebuilding our fragile health system and battered economy.

The period preceding the General Election is crucial; in not only consolidating national cohesion and reconciliation, but also in strengthening devolution, first by immediately remitting the over Sh100 billion that the National Treasury owes county governments.

Most wananchi at the grassroots are experiencing extreme socio-economic challenges, mired in abject poverty. 

We cannot achieve shared prosperity and end divisive elections, triggered by ethnic antagonism and competition, without addressing perennial challenges dogging the electorate.

The national government needs to apply comprehensive measures to address the health emergency, secure core public services and boost long-term economic growth.

That means a vastly improved governance and business environments and strong investment in education and public health.

Only constitutional discipline, cooling off the political temperature and rebuilding of a more resilient economy, will lead to electoral justice and alleviation of poverty. [email protected]

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