After months of boisterous and sometimes repetitive crusades, candidates aspiring for seats in Tuesday’s General Election made their final pitch as the campaign period officially came to an end on Friday. It is now up to voters to elect those they think will best serve their interests.
The expectation now is that those elected to public office will use their positions to serve the nation diligently. And this is why voters have to be careful about their choice of leaders — for far too long, the public outcry has been that corruption and sloth has been the bane of this country. And yet tribalism and mismanagement of public resources is a direct consequence of those we elect. We saw the character and true nature of these leaders during the campaign period. And now it’s our turn to vote.
Tuesday’s elections will be historical on many fronts. It will be the first time that incumbents under the 2010 constitutional dispensation will have served a full term. County governors, senators and ward representatives will for the first time have to face the voters’ verdict on account of the service they have rendered in the last five years.
Although the offices of the President and Members of Parliament had existed before, certain terms of service were modified and amended. Therefore, the President and MPs will also have to answer to voters at the ballot.
It will be disappointing if ethnicity is the primary motivation for electing leaders. When tribe is the primary motivator, then leaders are not held accountable for their actions. These politicians are not held responsible whether or not they steal or mismanage public resources and deny their constituents opportunities that will lead to their advancement.
Therefore, as we ask Kenyans to vote wisely, we also join the common refrain and urge all concerned to ensure that the elections are peaceful. There have been disturbing events to signal that having a smooth election will be more difficult than we had envisaged.
The alarm bells began to ring when results of the shambolic and often violent political party nominations were allowed to stand. By upholding results of the poorly organised and mismanaged elections, we allowed a flawed process to sift the leaders who will vie for office on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, the fallout led to the emergence of hundreds of independent candidates.
The full effect of electing hordes of independent candidates — aspirants who are not supported by party ideology and whose values we don’t know — will emerge during the life of the next Parliament. For now, we can only hope that the governance structure will not be compromised when we have too many elected leaders who do not have the collegial responsibility that comes with belonging to a political party.
Despite their shortcomings, parties provide structure to the political process — their manifestoes provide direction about what they stand for and which policies they will pursue. When there are too many independent legislators in an institution like the National Assembly, the very nature of the adversarial set-up of the House takes a different hue.
We will be going to Tuesday’s elections under very difficult circumstances. Events of the last few days — the mysterious killing of a senior official of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the raid of the National Super Alliance (NASA) tallying centre — should worry us.
No matter how improbable, these events can help feed into the narrative that someone somewhere could be trying to influence the 2017 elections by infiltrating these two entities.
Only a thorough and independent investigation can put such fears to rest. However, with the ugly rhetoric that has been coming from the campaign platforms, it is unlikely that the opportunity to exploit these two unfortunate incidents will be exhausted. But we must emphasise that this is the time for cool heads to prevail.
That is why we ask voters to rise above the fray and elect leaders who can bring transformative change to this nation.