Kenya General Elections Series: Election to the Office of the President

After the first presidential debate ever in Kenya, the battle lines have been drawn and others reinforced. Officially Kenya has 8 presidential candidates after the presentation of their papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya (IEBC). Now focus turns to the procedure of the election to the office of the President of the Republic of Kenya. What are the details of this procedure?

Article 138 of the Constitution is conveniently preceded by the heading ‘procedure at presidential election’. This article details the procedure from presentation of papers to the polling day. It provides clarity and predictability to the business of electing Kenya’s commander-in-chief.

Clause 1 of article 138 states that where one candidate is nominated as a presidential candidate, then he/she stands elected. This means that Kenyans need not go to the polls because what would be the point in that? However as mentioned earlier, there are 8 presidential candidates which means Kenyans cannot avoid going to the polls in accordance with article 138(2). This clause stipulates that if there are two or more nominated candidates, an election must be held in each constituency.

The date and time of these elections are also set by the constitution. They are supposed to be held on the 2nd Tuesday, in August of every 5th year. Needless to point out (but I choose to), these elections do not fit into this constitutional specification. This was a result of a court ruling that stipulated that elections must be held within 60 days after the end of 10th parliament’s term. IEBC picked out March 4th for the polling date. Hopefully this legal anomaly will be corrected before the next general elections.

Polling is via secret ballot and only registered voters are allowed to participate. The IEBC is the only body legally mandated to count, tally and officially announce the results of elections. In the case of the presidential elections, they have up to 7 days after the conclusion of polling to announce the result. In other words, within 7 days after the polling date, IEBC must announced a winner and provide a written notification to the Chief Justice and the incumbent President to that effect.

But how does one win? Clause 4 of the article provides a two pronged test. The first is whether the candidates garners more than half (50%) of the total votes cast. The other is whether he/she gets 25% or more of all the votes cast in at least 24 of the 47 counties in Kenya.

If none of the candidates manage to achieve the foregoing, then within 30 days a run off must be executed. The race would be between the person(s) who received the greatest number of votes and the one(s) who received the second greatest number of votes. In the highly improbable but possible event that two or more candidates receive the exact same number of votes which are calculated to be the greatest number, then the one(s) with a figure that is lower are barred from running even though they are technically second. The candidate with a simple majority at the run off wins the election.

Opinion polls have often projected that none of the candidates can win this election in the first round. If they are accurate and that is what happens after the 4th of March, it means Kenyans would be headed to another presidential election latest by April the 3rd. This means the incumbent would hold office until after that date in April.

After the presidential election, those aggrieved by the results have 7 days to file a petition in the Supreme Court (article 140 (1)). The court has 14 days to render a decision and should it decide to invalidate the results, fresh elections would be held within 60 days. Note that there is no appeal to this decision.

There are certain circumstances in which the presidential election can be cancelled. These are: if no one is nominated to run for this office, if any candidate or his/her running mate dies on or before the March 4th or if a President-elect dies before assuming office. In the above cases, fresh elections are to be held within 60 days.

Where the presidential election is concluded and there is no petition or if the petition is dismissed there is the issue of swearing in. The 2007 presidential swearing in ceremony left a bad taste in many Kenyans’ mouths. This time round, it must be done in public and the oath or affirmation of office administered by the Chief Justice or his deputy in his absence.

In conclusion, I implore Kenyans to the peace as we enter our 50th year of independence. Vote wisely as you do so peacefully.

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Kenya General Elections Series: How to Win Party Primaries

The more things change the more they remain the same. These words are accredited to one Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a French journalist and novelist by profession. It best portrays the political system in Kenya after the hyped New Constitution of Kenya that was promulgated on 27th August 2010. But how does this statement relate to the current madness prevailing in the system? Check this out.

Hon. Kenneth Marende in an interview with one of the local dailies declared that the 10th Parliament broke legislation passing record. Among these pieces of legislation were the Elections and Political Party Acts. I thought we were ‘professionalizing’ politics with party hoping being initially capped, party primaries conducted in time among many other good things that were (as some were long amended) and are in the act. But after the primaries, I wonder what lessons we have learnt.

I observed the following as a winning formula and thus a reflection of some of our leaders:

Have Connections on the inside

How does one win a party primary and then the certificate given to the loser? It reminds me of those mlolongo (Swahili for queue) days in the KANU era. Supporters of a candidate would queue behind him/her and ideally the one with the longest line should be the one to clinch the post. Sounds simple doesn’t it? The only problem there was that the ones with the shortest lines were often declared the winners since these had more of ‘KANU blood’ running through their veins.

More than 20 years later plus a new constitution, not much has changed. Aspirants from various counties in Kenya are complaining that they have been unfairly and illegally locked out. Some of these won their primaries fair and square but only for the certificate to be handed to their opponents. That’s democracy working right there as the last shall surely be on the first on the ballot paper.

Buy lots and lots of Photocopying paper

If a candidate smells defeat coming from a far and is unwilling to let go, what does he/she do? They cannot create constituents loyal to themselves and even if they could they have to wait for them to reach the age of majority to vote (18 years in Kenya). Thus the other option available is to photocopy ballot papers and ensure their names are on every one of them.

The next task would be stuff these papers. This would not be an easy fete. However, since human beings are easily distracted, create commotion and ensure that it lasts for as long as you need to elect yourself. Alternatively you can have party officials and presiding officers in your pocket. This route will be smoother as many of these agents callously suggest particular candidates as they ‘help’ senior citizens and those illiterate exercise their political right.

Have an Exit Plan

Those who live by the sword must die thereby. It may very well be that you might use these tricks but your opponent would take the better of you. Thus there must be an exit strategy. Always have a certificate from a smaller party waiting to be signed. However you must be careful that this party is registered as the laws passed are serious on this. As soon as you reach Parliament, do something about that law. I mean the education requirement for members of Parliament was watered down to benefit them why not do the same for this requirement?

Take Vocal Lessons

Do not confuse the title with singing. Well you will do some amount of singing to woo unsuspecting voters but these lessons are more on how to shout successfully. Party primaries are often acrimonious and do at times degenerate quickly into shouting matches. Thus he who shouts the loudest must have been aggrieved and therefore must have been the winner. Isn’t it simple logic?

If you stick to these simple rules, you will have earned the title mheshimiwa (Swahili for honourable) and thus the ‘right’ to steer your constituents and the country to greatness. Congratulations, we are proud of you.

Kenya General Election Series: Ethnicization of Kenyan Politics

Kenyans have for a long time been described as an ethnic minded people. Proponents of this notion often point to our political culture as proof. They say Kenyans become more polarized along ethnic lines when politics is involved and usually during elections. But I think that they may be missing the bigger picture while focusing on the pixels. I hereinafter state my reasons for this proposition.

When talking about any country in Africa, analysts (both African and non-African) use colonial history as the starting point for their analyses. The Kenyan situation, I believe, is no different. The colonial history of this country is based inter alia on discrimination and separation of the African folk; a policy known as divide and rule. As long as the Africans were divided, there would be no meaningful opposition to the establishment.

Division brought with it marginalization which a predominant theme in Kenyan political history. The divide and rule policies of the British Empire planted the seeds of discord among Kenyans as some regions were favoured more than others. However successive governments put the fertilizer and provided the necessary conditions for the so-called negative ethnicity seeds to flourish and take root based on how resources were distributed.

Throughout Kenya’s political history, one community has been pitted against another at one point in time. For instance, the perceived animosity between the Luo and the Kikuyu is as a result of the former perceiving the latter as megalomaniacs. From the assassination of Tom Mboya and the tribulations of the erstwhile vice-president turned opposition leader to the bungled elections of 2007, events have further conspired to fan these perceptions.

Whereas I cannot deny with a clean conscious that there were no schemers of such machinations, I cannot in the same breath say that ALL Kikuyu’s are megalomaniacs. This is just one example of the many complex political conflicts that exist in the country. Surprisingly, if one looks hard enough he/she is bound to find the distribution of resources as the bedrock. I therefore agree with one Murkomen, who on an interview aired on Aljazeera English (Inside Story) on Wednesday 16th January at 2030hrs (local time) stated that political violence on Kenya can be traced to marginalization and distribution of resources.

In addition to the foregoing, there’s a fact that often skips the minds of many. In 2002 Kenyans voted side by side without any issues. At this point we all wanted a change from the KANU (Kenya National African Union) rhetoric since independence. Tribes that were erstwhile mortal political enemies supported a common candidate. In these elections, two tribes that were engaged in acrimonious violence are together again or so it seems. In my view, these events do not depict a people that are inherently ethnic.

What is my point? Scarce resources, growing population, inequitable distribution of resources are among the issues that drive Kenyans into ethnic shelves with slogans such as ‘it’s our time to eat’. Leaders often have used these issues to create tribal bases wherefrom they can negotiate with the powers that be for a slice of the national cake. But in true Machiavellian fashion, they betray the expectations of their people once they get into positions of power.

Therefore, one of the principal reasons for decentralization was equity in distribution of resources. Looking at the counties created, one can almost trace tribal boundaries although the law does still provide for ethnic balance in each county government. By this, I hope, people will be keener on their governor than their president. Consequently, Kenyans will not be easily divided into ethnic shelves by presidential aspirants seeking to sweep into power. However, I am not sure I can say the same for the gubernatorial office.

In conclusion, bad governance is the reasons Kenyans behave as they do. Frustrated that the independence of the nation was hijacked by a few excited chaps, Kenyans came up with a defense mechanism. That defense mechanism was ethnicity wherein through regional balancing they could at least get a slice of the cake. Perhaps a study on the same would vindicate my position on the role of ethnicity in Kenyan Politics but until then, it remains an opinion.