Reviewing electoral laws only cure to poll chaos

Thursday, November 14th, 2019 08:00 |
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati at a past press conference. PD/FILE

By Cornel Rasanga       

Have you ever linked some of Kenya’s social, economic and political problems to the election campaigns and beyond? In case   you  have never,  you are  mistaken!  To jog your mind, A US diplomat once  said “choices have consequences” in reference to the Kenyan 2013 General Election.   

Events of the recent past vindicate the diplomat, whose remarks were frowned upon. Some of the chronicled consequences  are too gruesome to comprehend and one  wonders  for how  long  Kenyans  will  continue  to  watch stone-throwing  political leaders  incite  and divide the  country  into tribal enclaves in each  election cycle. 

It’s a shame when leaders are linked to ethnic division, suspicion, hatred, gender disparity, discrimination and corruption. For instance, it’s unheard of, save for  some rare cases, to see a parliamentary seek election  in a  region  where  a different  dialect  is the  mode  of  communication.  

Yet, we pride ourselves in being a democracy that is supposed to be cohesive, tolerant and united in diversity. Electoral  statutes   as  currently crafted  are  prone  to abuse and  are unlikely to  produce  credible and selfless  leaders.

To curb chaos in every electoral cycle, the country must undertake drastic reforms particularly in the Political Parties Act and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Act. 

Proportional representation seems to be the viable alternative   and a cure to election-related problems. In the system, voters choose parties instead of individuals who could be men and women of questionable integrity. Party nominees matching the number of slots in the constituencies and wards across the country should serve a term without interruption. 

Under the  system, inclusivity  would  not  be  negotiable  because  parties  would  be  obliged  to  meet  its part of the  bargain  in  the  irrevocable  nomination list filed with  the electoral commission ahead of the  polls.  Elusive gender parity would be achieved with ease. 

The just-concluded Kibra parliamentary by-election is a glaring case of politically-instigated violence that could be avoided in a proportional representation system. The acrimonious verbal exchanges the Raila Odiga-led ODM camp and the rival Jubilee camp headed by Deputy President William Ruto was a pointer of just how must importance is attached to an election—it’s a matter of life and death. 

 As is the  case  in  any election, candidates  pledged  heaven  and changes to the face of  slums in Africa, a dream  that  has eluded successive  regimes,  let  alone  parliamentary  and ward  representatives.

But the worst bout of election violence  in Kenya was witnessed in the aftermath of 2007 General Election. The violence threatened to rear its ugly head again in 2017 after the disputed election, re-opening the 2007 wounds. And even before Kenyans heal, we are deep into 2022 politics!  

These events present a daunting challenge to the  collective leadership of this  country. 

 It is against this background that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila   swallowed their  pride, with the message that Kenya  is  bigger than  all of us.  Amid criticism by status  quo proponents, whose  comfort zone was bound to  be  disturbed  by the  looming radical changes, the  two leaders  formed the  Building Bridges  Initiative  taskforce  to  diagnose  the  country’s  endless problems which seem to manifest more during polls. 

But where did the rain start beating us?  Various reports and commissions’ findings seem to point to elections and the stakes therein as the source of problems. This, I believe, is what Uhuru and Raila Handshake sought to cure. At stake today is the legacy of the two leaders.  

—The writer is the Governor of Siaya County

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