Kenya General Elelction Series: Thoughts on the Kenyan Voter

Recently the Kenyan political scene has been awash with news of political marriages. Some are said to be out of convenience while others out of ideologies. Interestingly there has been an explosion of self professing political analysts at every corner. Almost everyone these days is projecting this or that candidate would win the elections.

The more they talked and talk, the more I noticed/notice certain patterns among the Kenyan voters. However, my assessment is not based on any empirical evidence. It is, rather, predicated on the numerous unsolicited and solicited political advice as well as some structured debates that I have engaged in. My conclusions have led me to categorize the Kenyan voter into four broad categories. These are , the fanatic, idealist, realist and disillusioned voter.

FANATIC VOTER

They often confuse and conflate the person with his policies. In other words their fervent, and at times unreasonable, belief in their candidate sustains their arguments on his/her suitability.They will either conveniently ignore the blatant flaws of their candidate or explain them away.

These type of voters have no need for manifestos. They focus on the common bond they have with their preferred candidate. In most instances these bonds fall in line with tribal affiliations. Thus the saying ‘it is our time to eat’ becomes that much clearer in the Kenyan political context.

Rarely will you get any unbiased facts from such voters. This makes it difficult to engage them in any meaningful debate on policy. Some may get defensive to the point where fisticuffs do ensue. My advice is that you should avoid engaging them at all cost as this will waste your time, energy and money especially if it gets to blows.

IDEALIST VOTER

These voters believe in the goodness of the political process. Politics, according to them, is teleological: it is geared towards an end. This end is the achievement of some moral good for the people, or the greatest number thereof (Bentham Utilitarian Principles).

Notions such as leadership and integrity rank high among their demands on political representatives. Often, they focus their attention on what an aspirant has done vis a vis what he intends to do for the country. Thus party manifestos are very appealing to them and more often than not, they pour through the pages ruminating on its contents. Track records are an integral ingredient in their support for a candidate.

Such voters are driven by issues rather than personalities. Their debates focus on security, economy, jobs etc. They may also get passionate about their candidate but rarely to the extent of physical violence. They try to convince their opponents using reason and facts.

REALIST VOTER

Of all the voters, I find these ones very interesting. This is because of how they reason out their options. How they view the political landscape usually vexes the idealistic voter because the latter deems the former as the main reason, other than the fanatics, for the  political status quo.

In politics, they reason, there are those candidates that have the numbers (political support) and those that do not. Thus they do not waste their time on those they perceive not to have this support. Rather, they concentrate on the two top most contenders and depending on the difference of the support base, may choose the strongest candidate of the two.

However if the race is neck to neck, they will choose the lesser evil of the two, in other words the one most suitable to meet their interests. Most of the times they invest in their preferred choice to ensure success. Others may use the ‘sitting on the fence approach’ and fund both candidates making their future secure irrespective of who wins the polls. However they do this in secret to avoid backlash.

I tend to think that most business men would think like this. If they have a high stake in who becomes president and the race is neck to neck, their short term goals of achieving the bottom line for their businesses may override any consideration for leadership and integrity. They tend to view politics in a very pragmatic manner devoid of idealistic notions.

DISILLUSIONED VOTER

Otherwise known as the apathetic voter. Not being convinced that their vote could ever make a difference, they may not even register as voters. They may have voted before but their candidate most likely did not win.

Politics to them will never change. They perceive what they may call the reality of politics not favoring their preferred candidate, but at the same time do not want to vote for those that have the numbers. The only logical thing for them to do, according to them, is to stay away from the polls and let others decide.

So which one are you?

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