Is it possible that since 2007 we have never had a real election in which the will of the people determines who comes to power?
Otherwise, how do we explain the loud statement from those who did not care to vote? Are we premising our concern on low voter turnout on numbers that actually never existed in previous elections?
Well, let us delve into core lessons emerging from the August 9, 2022, General Election.
First, the queues were longer in the past. Of course, the context has changed in the last five years. The country is in another space with many people feeling the cost of living has considerably become unbearable. Yet, there are more vehicles on the roads than ever before. As the cliché goes the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening.
The August 9, 2022 voter was caught between hope and hopelessness. Hope in a new government regime that will improve livelihoods and generate wealth. Hopelessness for those who have lived long enough to know every incoming regime promises ivory towers to all citizens, but rarely does the delivery measure up to the promises made. Majority of Kenyans struggle in life – economically to be precise. What we learn from this election is that many Kenyans do not see voting as a key solution to their problems.
Second, the real election result is not on those who voted but on those who did not. Just about 57 per cent of the 22 million voters decided to exercise their right to choose their leaders for the next five years. In a country of over 50 million people, ravaged by high-level corruption and soaring levels of poverty, we did not have the guts to go out in numbers to choose a leadership that we can demand services from.
What we learn is that there is a disconnect between voters and elected leadership. While elected leaders claim to speak on behalf of Kenyans, the evidence at hand through the election results shows the exact opposite. Majority of Kenyans do not give a damn about who is elected or not. They mind about their own business and seem to live in a Kenya ruled by some “self-imposed leaders”. Ironically, these two parties interdepend for a country to run.
Third, reports that are yet to be fully analysed indicate that youths were no-show in the queues. Most of them opted to use their time anywhere but polling station to shape their own future. Here we are shouting ourselves nuts that the youth are the future of this country. We hammer leaders on the need to create an enabling environment for the youth to get opportunities to better their lives.
However, the election turnout tell a different story. The youth have given up on voting. We must be harvesting what we planted in 2007, 2013 and 2017 when presidential elections were bitterly contested.
Some youths argue that elections are predetermined so there is no need to vote. Others, have voted only to see a presidential winner declared in unclear circumstances, so they say. Still, others say there is no worthy candidate to waste time and go vote for. Regardless of the validity and soundness of how youths justify their decision not to vote, we have a lesson spelt out for us. Majority of youths have no faith in our electoral system.
Lastly, non-issues characterised the election campaign. There was nothing so compelling to drive people from their homes to go vote. Candidates peddled lies, attacked each other in crude language and bribed, directly and indirectly, to be voted. I have no idea where from or how we will gather moral righteousness to demand government service delivery from leaders who practically bought us to and go vote.
Yes, congratulations to those who deserved to win! Remember to invite us for the homecoming parties.
-Dr Mokua is executive director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication