Revisit party and independent aspirants clearance process

Independent presidential aspirant Eliud Muthiora Kiriara burns his voter's card after being rejected by IEBC. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The official clearance of the presidential aspirants by the Independent and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ended on Monday in readiness for the August 9 General Election.

Based on reports from the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP), IEBC and the legacy media, there were at least 56 party and independent aspirants who had expressed interest in running for president. Initially there were major concerns as to how the singe ballot paper would accommodate such a high number.

In the final analysis, only four party-sponsored aspirants were cleared, including Raila Odinga of Azimio, William Ruto of United Democratic Alliance (UDA), George Wajackoyah of Roots party and Mwaure Waihiga of Agano Party. The candidates represent only seven per cent of the original applicants. This year none of the independent candidates was given the greenlight by the commission. Notably, this is the shortest presidential ballot paper since the advent of multiparty democracy in 1992.

The clearance process was not without drama. The first aspirant to be cleared, Walter Mong’are of Umoja Summit Party, was later discovered as not having the requisite qualifications. How this escaped the sharp scrutiny of the IEBC top brass remains inexplicable. In another bizarre incident rejected independent aspirant Muthiora Kiriara burnt his voter’s card in full glare of the commission staff and media cameras.

The vexing question is where exactly the rain started beating the once exuberant party and independent aspirants. Quite a number of them had expressed concerns that IEBC and mainstream media were ignoring them. Subsequently, an ample number was invited and interviewed live by several media houses. During the interviews, the aspirants outlined their manifestos and exuded confidence they would emerge victorious in the presidential race. 

The joke circulating on social media was that, if a Kenyan was desirous of appearing before mainstream media, all they needed was to run for president. The analogy continued that at the time of presenting their clearance documents before the IEBC chairman, the entire mainstream media would be present to cover them. In addition, the media would give them an opportunity to address the supporters and the entire nation.

Walter Mong’are (right) of Umoja Summit Party was the first aspirant to be cleared. [Samson Wire, Standard]

For starters , IEBC on January 20, published the Notice of General Election to be held on August 9, vide Gazette Notice numbers 430, 431, 432, 433, 434 and 435. The notice outlined key statutory election timelines that political parties and independent candidates should observe.

Kenya’s Constitution is clear about the requirements for a presidential candidate. The person qualifies for nomination if the individual; (a) is a citizen of Kenya by birth; (b) is qualified to stand for election as a member of Parliament; (c) is nominated by a political party, or is an independent candidate; and (d) is nominated by not fewer than 2,000 voters from each of a majority of the counties to be accompanied with duly filled forms of the supporters bearing the names, signatures, and identity cards/passport numbers of the stipulated number of voters. Corresponding copies of the identification documents of the voters who have appended their signatures in support of their candidature, and an electronic list of supporters in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format.

A person is not qualified for nomination as a presidential candidate if the person owes allegiance to a foreign state. The qualifications of a deputy president are similar to those of the president.

The just-concluded clearance process requires further scrutiny in terms of preparedness of the party and independent presidential aspirants. To begin with, there is an apparent lack of awareness or being well versed with the above clearly stipulated electoral and constitutional requirements.

Secondly, the requirement that the aspirants must have a degree from a university recognised in Kenya demands deep introspection. This is in terms of the quality of graduates from our institutions of higher learning.

Thirdly, based on the precedent from the previous elections, certain party-sponsored and independent candidates hardly garner the minimum threshold of 48,000 votes at the presidential election. The question that arises therefore is what transpired with all the supposed supporters who endorsed them at the clearance stage. 

Singer Reuben Kigame. He is among the independent candidates locked out of the race by IEBC. [File, Standard]

Fourth, there is a clear indication that some voters may have been coerced to nominate the cleared aspirants. This electoral lacuna requires further scrutiny.

Fifth is the perplexity of how an aspirant decides to run for presidency, yet they are unable to fulfil self-basic constitutional and electoral requirements.

Finally, there is anecdotal signal that only those who are financially endowed can garner for the top seat. The compilation of 2,000 voters from each of a majority of the counties is no doubt a daunting task. Further, does IEBC have a signature data bank to authenticate those of the aspirants’ supporters?

The high number of presidential aspirants is a clear demonstration that there are many yearning for leadership roles. There may be a need to establish a school of leadership where instead of aspirants starting at the top they could be mentored through from MCA, MP, senator/governor then president. This a wake-up call for all stakeholders to build on the nation’s democratic ideals.