Reviewing electoral laws only cure to poll chaos
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