The limits of democracy and criminals in power

A voter casts his ballot during United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party primaries at Nyeri County Assembly polling station, April 14, 2022. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

I wanted to start off by saying, “good morning,” but I hesitated because it’s not a very good morning for many politicians who fell by the wayside, as the United Democratic Alliance concluded its primaries last week.

Other parties are conducting their polls in the weeks ahead, but it appears all of them are trying a new route to fortify their “democracy”: they are turning to pollsters to determine who is the most “popular” candidate among the electorate in key constituencies.

Well, democracy and the dictum of one man, one vote, was invented for exactly that—to establish candidates’ popularity among the electorate. But since some pretty well-known personalities were twangad at the primaries by folks who are virtually unknown beyond their villages, party honchos are subverting the enormous power wielded by the voters. So, the idea of using pollsters isn’t about protecting the electorate from making bad choices; it is about insulating the political elite from being kicked out by voters.

I don’t know if those are the crooks that Internal Security Minister Fred Matiang’i had in mind when he warned this week: “If we are not careful as Kenyans, by the time we are done with this electoral cycle, we would’ve laundered criminals into our institutions.” 

He went on: “These include money launderers, “wash wash” players, drug dealers and others who can access large sums of money.”

Well, if those are the characters being given a safe passage by avoiding the primaries and securing direct nominations, the Kenyan voter know precisely what to do. As our people say, wembe ni ule ule…