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ELECTION 2022

Voting gives you moral right to question State’s performance

ELIAS MOKUA
By Elias Mokua | Apr 7th 2022 | 3 min read

Voters queue at Mukuru Educational Centre in Embakasi Nairobi during the 2013 General Election. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Some of my very good friends see no reason to vote in the August General Election. Why? They have no preferred candidate. Election outcomes are determined regardless of the actual vote count. Politicians are the same monkeys in a different forest. Corruption will influence who is elected.

These are just a few ‘reasons’ that are making some eligible voters doubtful they will vote in August.

Voter apathy is the lack of interest or justification to cast a ballot. Moral apathy is the lack of interest or justification to take personal responsibility in doing what is right. Like voter apathy, moral apathy applies to lack of interest or founded reasons to compel one to vote.

In Kenya, there is no mandatory voting. The decision to vote is personal. With no legal push, a voter has to find a reason to wake up, queue and vote. Some voters have their relatives and friends seeking elective positions so they feel morally obliged to vote. Others have a revenge mission as a motivation to vote particularly if their vote will deny an opponent, real or perceived, a chance to win. Spoiler aspirants fall in this category.

Of course, many Kenyan voters find in themselves a moral reason, not legal, which is being responsible citizens, to vote. Put differently, while voting is a right for eligible citizens to exercise, not all voters take advantage of it. In countries like the US, voting is mandatory.

Generally, we vote in order to renew our social contract with the elected leaders or to sign a new social contract with first-timers. Those whose performance we judge exemplary, we reward with another term. Besides, voter apathy can provide a chance for a less performing or less deserving aspirant to win an election. This is where moral apathy finds its space in elections. Moral apathy is a reason for voter apathy.

Moral apathy is disinterest in bearing responsibility to act right. The right thing to do in August is not just vote. Most importantly, vote for the right reason. Morally apathetic voters can actually vote but for wrong reasons.

Voting is one of the main ways in which we take responsibility for the kind of policies and regulations that inform government service delivery. Whether we like elected leaders or not is actually immaterial. Someone will be in office anyway to make laws, vote on budgets or decide on programmes that have direct impact on us as citizens. To miss such an opportunity to determine who makes decisions for us is giving away the moral right to question government performance.

Voting, in our system is a moral responsibility. Not to vote is morally permissible because it is down to one’s conscience. The countries that make it obligatory to vote avoid this moral choice and so every eligible voter is required to carry out their civic role dutifully. Failure to do so is punishable by law.

Should voting be mandatory for us to take responsibility in the kind of leadership we get? Well, everyone has a conscience to decide whether to vote or not. However, the greater good is to go vote. People with informed conscience will choose to vote at all times insofar as the process allows every vote to count. Whether a candidate wins or not, a vote count carries significant meanings.

Moral apathy as a reason for voter apathy is another way of letting people with corrupted conscience to take charge of our destiny. For example, if I see everyone in a traffic crime scene bribing his or her way through, I am most likely to bribe too.

I will not want to go through a long fairness process when a short cut will save me time and even money. I will suppress the inner voice, which is the conscience. Voila! I groom moral apathy. We need moral nurturing to play our moral civic duty, which includes voting.

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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