Some 19.6 million voters go to the polls this morning with a rallying call that every vote counts to decide how the country will be governed over the next five years.
The choice of president, governors, MP and Senate as well as MCA will determine policies and how taxpayers’ money will be spent.
Leaders have rallied voters to make their voice heard on governance, by exercising authority they wield every five years, to ensure they install individuals with the best interests of the nation at heart and must also be of unquestionable integrity.
Another factor that underlines the importance of a high voter turnout is most opinion polls have predicted the presidential election is too close to call. Also, there is fierce competition at the counties where a total of 14,552 candidates are competing for 1,882 seats.
The winner of the presidential race, that has eight candidates including President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main rival Raila Odinga, will form a government that will decide how on average, Sh1.2 trillion national revenue will be spent each year.
And the 47 governors will collectively oversee at least Sh345 billion in their first year in office, with an almost similar amount for each of the subsequent years, underlining the importance to vote in those likely to put the resources to good use.
President Kenyatta who has asked his supporters to turn out in large numbers and vote for him. He has argued for his re-election alongside his deputy William Ruto citing development projects his administration has initiated.
“I thank Kenyans for largely conducting peaceful campaigns and urge all of us to remain united after August 8. Let us thank God for the peace we have continued to enjoy in our country and vow to maintain it as we also pray for a peaceful election, unity and prosperity for all Kenyans,” Uhuru said.
Deputy President William Ruto yesterday took to his Twitter account; ”GOD in heaven; silence every rumour & lie, frustrate any scheme to rig or steal, and destroy any plan for chaos, confusion or violence. AMEN.”
On Sunday, Ruto said; “Kenya will be special for the first time after the election. This election will not have losers and winners; democracy will prevail.”
Opposition chief Raila Odinga has urged his supporters to turn out in large numbers and not to be cowed by huge presence of security officers.
“You must come out and vote for change. Don’t be intimidated by the presence of the police or be scared by those who want to rig. You must seize the moment and have your voice,” Raila said.
NASA presidential campaign chairman and chief agent Musalia Mudavadi said: “We want Kenyans to embrace democracy and we also want change of regime, that’s absolute. We want Kenyans to come out in large numbers so we can also eliminate the notion incumbents can step on peoples toes recklessly and imagine they can be voted in due to incumbency. Kenyans have a chance to choose leaders that don’t ever imagine because you are an incumbent, you can mess with the people and walk away.”
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said the election is a solemn opportunity for the people to renew or sign a social contract with their leaders warning failure to vote leads to selection of bad leaders.
“Kenyans have a date with destiny. This is the only chance to renew governance contract and it’s a duty for all Kenyans to participate so they don’t complain of poor leadership later. It’s therefore a solemn duty that everybody is obliged to determine whom you want to lead you,” Muturi added.
Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) chairman Kiprono Kittony said; “It is validation of the democratic process and Kenyans must come out in large numbers to pick leaders who will take us to the next level. And IEBC should ensure the conduct of the exercise is free, fair and credible.”
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHCR) executive director George Kegoro said; “Elections are a tool for political stability, being the ultimate means for expressing the political preferences of citizens. Elections contribute to social and political cohesion. I hope these elections will move Kenya forward in the path of national cohesion.”
Patricia Nyaundi, the CEO of State agency, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), said every vote cast is a statement by the voter.
“When you consider the cumulative effect of that single vote when combined with others by like-minded people, then the significance of that vote dawns on us and the shared responsibility to vote for the national good,” Nyaundi said.
“After the noise that has characterised the campaigning period, it is now time for the voter to be heard. This is authority that citizens wield only once every five years. Failure to exercise it is tantamount to surrendering a birth right,” Mrs Nyaundi said.
“An election is both a time to assess the way a country is governed to approve it or chart a new direction. While in days of old people would use military might, force or coercion, in a democracy, the voice of the people is expressed through the vote. It’s a God-given responsibility to participate in the stewardship of a nation. To fail to take part is to neglect a most solemn duty,” Transparency International Executive Director Samuel Kimeu said.
Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chairman Isaac Okero said; “It’s a constitutional right to vote and the destiny of this nation, realisation of all our collectively aspirations, lies in our hands and depends on the choices we make today.”
John Cardinal Njue noted; “We have sent enough peace messages and the need for people to turn out and cast their ballots. What remains now is for the people to express their will.”
Eldoret Catholic Bishop, Cornelius Korir said; “We appeal to all registered voters to turn out to cast their ballot and keep peace throughout the period. All candidates should also be ready to accept the outcome so there can be peace and unity. We must also support those tasked with the electoral process so they can guarantee credible elections.”
National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) general secretary Canon Peter Karanja said; “It will be tragic to hear the turn out wasn’t good. The election that Kenyans have looked forward to for a long time has come and I appeal to Kenyans to exercise their democratic right. Let every registered Kenyan go out and vote because in so doing, they help the country make a democratic choice on who will become our leaders.”
“This is a chance to perform our constitutional duty of choosing our leaders,” said Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Archbishop Eliud Wabukala.
[Additional reporting by Moses Nyamori].