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Why ongoing political musical chairs will not impact 2022 elections

By Kethi Kilonzo | Published Sun, February 4th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 3rd 2018 at 20:11 GMT +3

In February 2016, the Legislature of North Carolina passed a plan meant to favour Republic candidates in elections in the State. The State Legislator responsible for drawing the 2016 plan said he drew the map to advantage Republic candidates because “electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats.” In the following elections, of 13 electoral areas, the Republican candidates won 10 out of 13 seats representing 77 per cent of available seats. In contrast, the Republican party only garnered 53 per cent of the Statewide vote.

The 2016 plan redrawing the electoral areas in the North Carolina State was challenged in court and the parties suing the State Legislature relied on the results of the election as proof that the plan was skewed to favour one party and one type of voter at the cost of the other party and voter.

The Federal Courts quashed the redrawing plan on January 9th, two years later. By defining electoral boundaries to suit one political party or interest, a Legislature can strengthen or dilute universal suffrage and at the same time the strength of a political party.

Failed to heed a directive

The last population census in Kenya was in 2009. The next one is due in 2019, at least three years before the next General Election. The last constituencies’ electoral boundaries review was conducted in 2010. The next must be conducted before the 2022 General Election.

After the report of the 2009 population census was released the government issued a directive cancelling the population census results of North Eastern Province. This directive was nullified by the High Court. The government appealed to the Court of Appeal. That appeal is still pending today and its result will most likely be overtaken by the 2019 population census.

The population census as well as the review of boundaries has economic, social and political ramifications.

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Economic, as the results of the census determine the distribution of revenue among the 47 counties. Social, as electoral boundaries determine whether members of different communities remain within the same geographical location for purposes of national and county government administration.

Political, because in a country divided along tribal and clan lines as we are, boundary review of constituencies may of itself guarantee politicians among certain communities a loss or win at the next General Election.

The review of constituency boundaries will also affect the boundaries of and elections in counties and wards.

Why are the population census and the boundaries review important in the current elections cycle? Why do both activities require significantly more attention from the country? Are there not more pressing national issues?

At the time of writing this article, all attention is drawn to events following the swearing in of Raila Odinga.

There is: the arrest and charging of NASA politicians; the government’s decision to shutdown 3 media stations who failed to heed a directive gagging them from covering the swearing in; and, the failure to obey the orders of the Courts lifting the government shutdown.

Both opposition and government are and continue to be mired in actions that undermine both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. For now, whether deliberate or not, government has succeeded in totally shadowing the swearing in of Raila.

By instigating the no-show of his deputy and the other two principals, by dramatising the arrests of NASA politicians who took part, and by viciously attacking media freedom, they have ensured no one asks “Raila, what next?”

What next for boundaries review, population census, and two-thirds gender balance in Parliament? These are more likely to impact the 2022 elections and the quest for electoral justice than the ongoing political musical chairs.

- Kethi D Kilonzo is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]

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