This week saw the electoral race in Kenyan history. Avoiding broken nails, rising blood pressure and future post-electoral stress syndrome (PESS) will need self-care and respect for each other’s political choices over this weekend. What other insights can we make from our relatively open and competitive democracy?
Elections day went relatively well as expected. Opening delays, failure of 200 KIEMS kits and postponement of Mombasa and Kakamega governor elections were frustrating for many but did not constitute an electoral failure.
Some 16.5 million voters chose to exercise their historical and constitutional right to vote. Some even crossed the Uganda-Kenya border and others showed up dressed only in a towel and armed with their national ID and toothbrush. Some 35 per cent of voters could have chosen to stay away citing lack of faith in candidates, electoral system, and a future government.
Some 65 per cent turnout is far lower than past elections and the exit polls had predicted. What happened to those huge rally crowds? Was the absence of mobilisation fees and attendance handouts a factor? Paid participation for media optics has its limitations and may have cost many this election.
It is too early to analyse the character of the 13th Parliament. It is also premature to declare the round of county governments corruption-watch hotspots or spaces for shared prosperity and freedom. We can however commend the new culture of concession speeches.
A personal favourite was Nixon Korir’s mature public congratulatory message to Lang’ata MP-elect Felix ‘Jalang’o’ Odiwour. More of these will reduce public anxiety and violence.
Women candidates and supporters were verbally or physically assaulted across 200 polling stations. Electoral commission officials were disrupted or attacked across at least seven counties and tallying centres in Kwale (Matuga), Mombasa (Marycliff), Kirinyaga (Kianyaga), Wajir (Wajir North), West Pokot (Kapenguria), Nairobi (Mathare) and Vihiga (Hamisi) among others.
Working closely with election monitors and the public, police service and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions officers have moved to swiftly de-escalate supporter tensions and arrest election offenders in over 100 incidents.
In one of the most appalling election offences, Kimilili MP-elect Didimus Barasa went from candidate to fugitive and finally, arrested suspect over the murder of one of his constituents Brian Olunga.
The police must also arrest killers of Peter Adina of Obunga, Kisumu County. IPOA must investigate the police officer who sexually assaulted the Bungoma based National Youth Service officer and that GSU personnel caught on camera violently beating Mombasa residents.
One of the most remarkable features of this election has been the IEBC open portal that has allowed party agents, monitors, and the election enthusiasts to analyse those critical 34A and 34B forms. While not fool proof, this has brought a higher standard of transparency and reduced the scope for mischief, rigging claims and post-election violence.
Sadly, candidates and supporters have chosen to post false results and misleading information on social media.
Citizens are advised for their own sanity and our collective safety to treat them as either opinions or provisional figures. Let’s wait for the IEBC to announce the official figures.
Only evidence-based, transparent, swift, and regular IEBC updates will reduce anxiety. We urge fact-checking organisations and social media platform moderators to continue fact-checking and calling out lies. We have learned painfully that vitu kwa dijito ni tufauti kwa ground this year.
Although the presidential winner has not been announced at the time of writing, one thing is clear. The fifth president is likely to be elected with slightly more than 30 per cent of the electorate. 4.5 million didn’t register to vote, 8 million didn’t vote on the day and a possible 7 million voted against the winner. The fifth president will require a strategy to reach and enroll close to 20 million voters over the next five years.
Congratulations to both winners and losers, thank you for rising to serve us. God bless Kenya.