Why more voters kept off and how we can bring them back

Mombasa residents queue to Vote at Khadija Secondary School in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Thirty-five per cent of registered voters didn't bother to vote in the just concluded elections. Only 65 per cent showed up, a far cry from the 85.91 per cent of registered voters ten years ago in 2013.

Recently, I have been talking to Kenyans who did not vote to understand why they didn't. Their answers are so striking that we need to listen to their voice and respond accordingly.

First, "Voting in this country is a waste of time since votes are always stolen, anyway." This answer came from Kyeva a 44-year-old mother of three from Tala in Machakos County. She cited the Supreme Court's nullification of the 2017 presidential elections as proof that rigging is commonplace in Kenya.

Hopefully, these recent elections will go a long way in restoring the faith of Kenyans in electoral integrity. Apart from manageable logistical hitches, there is unanimous agreement that the IEBC conducted these elections in one of the most transparent ways ever.

Going forward we must equip them with more funds so that they can deliver increasingly credible elections. Unless Kenyans believe in the integrity of the electoral process, they will keep shying away.

Secondly, "Leaders forget about us as soon as they win elections. So why should I bother to vote for them." These sentiments were shared by Kevin, a 24-year old college graduate from Nairobi. Most of his fellow generation Z youth share those sentiments.

Only 40 per cent of youth between 18 and 35 registered to vote. This means six in ten young Kenyans didn't participate in these elections. If they had, they would have undoubtedly swayed the elections in their favour.

We have been quick to condemn Kenyans who didn't vote as unpatriotic and insensitive to development yet voting is not compulsory in Kenya as it is in some parts of the world. Nonetheless, their voter apathy is surely sending a message which we must listen to.

The 24-year-old's message is simple albeit powerful - leaders only engage them when they are hunting for votes. That culture must end. The newly elected leaders must engage constituents habitually. American legislators do this through platforms like town hall meetings.

These meetings are usually held in the localities that elected representatives come from. Through the meetings, constituents can pose tough questions to legislators. I recommend such regular, interactive sessions to our newly elected leaders. These must be day-long, thorough sessions, not brief one-sided declarations in marketplaces or roadsides.

Thirdly, "Same forest, different monkeys." This answer came from Balozi, a 50-year-old father of two from Nakuru. He also didn't vote because he hasn't seen much change in the last four electoral cycles that he has voted in.

Consequently, he has become as disillusioned with politics and elections as the young people who are in his children's generation.

Deputy President William Ruto was first elected to Parliament during the 1997 General Election. ODM leader Raila Odinga was elected to Parliament in 1993 after the 1992 General Election.

Evidently, they are both veteran politicians. Many Kenyans yearn for a breath of fresh air. As such, the President-elect must turn his vast political experience into a breath of fresh air that will inspire the electorate to believe in politics and the electoral process that anchor it.

More importantly, the President-elect must deliver on all the promises in his manifesto and if he falls short, he must come clean with instead of using public relations to create an impression of fulfilled promises.

Largely, majority of political leaders have betrayed the trust that Kenyans had in them. The only way they can be trusted again is by uniting the country and walking the talk. They must work harder for the common mwananchi. Think green, act green!