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.