The by-elections will probably be the last political contests before the 2013 General Election and offer a classic opportunity for all stakeholders to show that 2007 post-election violence will not occur again
By-elections in Kangema, Kajiado North, and Ndhiwa constituencies on Monday will be a test case for democracy as the nation and the world watch how Kenya is preparing for the historic March General Election.
The significance of the by-elections has been added impetus by the fact that the previous occupants of the three parliamentary seats held prominent positions in the Coalition Government, whose term is about to end.
Kenyans are particularly alive to the reality that George Saitoti who represented Kajiado North, John Michuki, and the immediate former Member of Parliament for Kangema, and Ndhiwa’s Orwa Ojodeh died in office.
Saitoti, who was Internal Security minister, had declared his candidature for president and Michuki, who handled the Environment docket, were powerful figures in Government from the Party of National Unity (PNU).
Ojodeh, Saitoti’s deputy in the crucial ministry, was a leading member of the Orange Democratic Movement, PNU’s partner in the coalition. They died in a tragic helicopter crash on June 10, plunging the country into a totally unexpected political paradox, which will culminate in by-elections on Monday.
Kenyans and the international community will therefore be keenly observing how voters in the three constituencies decide who will replace the three departed illustrious political figures. They will also want to see the polls conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner. So far, the campaigns have been peaceful, allowing freedom of speech and association as presidential aspirants traverse the constituencies to drum-up support for their party candidates.
Signs of political maturity, peace and the growth of democracy that portend well for the General Election were amply demonstrated during the campaigns when The National Alliance (TNA) leader Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta received arousing welcome in Homa Bay to campaign for party Ndhiwa aspirant, Rosemary Rumo.
A similar gesture was extended to ODM leader, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, when he visited Kangema in Central Province to campaign for the Mkenya Solidarity party candidate John Gathogo. The peaceful and accommodative spirit in which the campaigns have been conducted is a clear indication of healthy democracy.
The by-elections will probably be the last political contests before the 2013 General Election and offer a classic opportunity for all stakeholders – voters, politicians, security agents and, above all, the Ahmed Issack Hassan-led Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to show that Kenya will not go through the tragic experience of the 2007 polls.
The conduct, outcome and impact of the by-elections will definitely attract attention and reverberate way beyond Ndhiwa, Kangema and Kajiado North. They will provide a litmus test for cultivation of democracy, political maturity, and management of electoral contests.
Kenyans vividly remember the repercussions of the announcement of the disputed presidential election results on December 30, 2007, which almost took the country to the brink of a civil war. It is a situation Kenya and the world would not want to see again.
Although the by-elections have provided an early proxy battleground for some key contenders for president, Kenyans expect to see the people of these constituencies elect MPs of their choice, in free, fair, and democratic polls.