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Here's a tried and tested formula to solve running mate headache

By Njau Gitu | May 11th 2022 | 4 min read
Voters queue at Railway Polling station in Nakuru East on April 19, 2022 [Harun Wathari, Standard]

The ongoing debate regarding the identification of running mates for the leading presidential contenders is raising the stakes across the political coalitions.

According to the Constitution, a person qualifies for nomination as a presidential candidate if s/he; (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. (2) A person is not qualified for nomination as a presidential candidate if the person s/he; (a) owes allegiance to a foreign state. The qualifications of a deputy president are similar to those of president.

Besides the above qualifications there are other considerations being floated, among them the potential running mates’ capacity to attract voters from their respective regions and - this is an emerging issue - a person's loyalty to the presidential aspirant.

There are a number of contenders that have been floated by both Azimio la Umoja One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza as potential running mates. They include Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, Sabina Chege, Ndiritu Muriithi, Lee Kinyanjui, Peter Munya, Charity Ngilu, Stephen Tarus, Wycliffe Oparanya and Hassan Joho for Azimio. In Kenya Kwanza, there is Musalia Mudavadi, Justin Muturi, Alice Wahome, Irungu Kang’ata, Kithure Kindiki, Moses Wetangula, Mwangi Kiunjuri and Anne Waiguru.

The task of identifying a running mate lies with the presidential contender. However, with the entry of coalition parties, their interests have to be considered. With this development the final decision inevitably becomes a shared responsibility.

The presidential aspirants are being watched keenly by supporters. The way they navigate through this political journey shall ultimately determine their success or loss in the coming general election.

To have an inclusive process and overcome this nightmare, here is a model formula.

First, all parties in the coalition are stakeholders and should therefore nominate members to form a presidential running mate electoral college. The college should then select the potential contenders based on the model discussed here.

The Alternative or Preferential Vote model is one that has been tried with success in several established and emerging democracies. This is an electoral process where selectors must express through marking/selection an order of ranking for each candidate listed on the ballot.

For one to be elected under the preferential voting system, the potential running mate must obtain an absolute majority (i.e 50 per cent plus one) of the total formal vote in the count.

In the event none of the aspirants attains an outright absolute majority, the running mate aspirant, who has the lowest ranking in the initial count at that particular stage, is excluded.

The subsequent excluded running mates’ ballots are then examined to determine, and to physically transfer that excluded running mate's second preferences to continuing candidates. The process of excluding running mate aspirants continues, until one running mate aspirant attains an absolute majority.

In the event that running mate aspirants feel confident of winning, the first preferential round then all aspirants could opt for the Optional Preferential Voting. Although the Optional Preferential Voting is similar to alternative vote, there is a slight difference.

In this system, the selectors’ mark the preferences for candidates of their choice, but the selector voter need not mark/select preferences for all candidates listed on the ballot.

In an Optional Preferential Voting, a candidate still requires to attain an absolute majority (i.e. 50 per cent plus one) of the votes remaining in the count. In the event a selector does not show contingent preferences for each and every aspirant, the vote ballot is deemed to “exhaust or deplete”. This is at the subsequent tally since there are no further preferences shown/selected.

So unlike in the first ,the Optional Preferential Voting system may be used to elect one or more representatives. The question then arises, what are the advantages of these model. First, the winning aspirant is elected by a majority of college selectors. This ensures that all stakeholders have faith in the outcome and the coalition structures.

Second, the vote of every participating elector counts towards deciding the eventual winner. This adds value to the coalition selectors and supporters.

Third, the running mate aspirants and their supporters, having signed the party code of conduct and agreed to be subjected to the coalition rules, shall be obligated to support the winning aspirant in the subsequent electoral contest.

Fourth, the coalition, having conducted credible running mate identification process shall gain favour among the majority of supporters even those who are not members. 

Fifth, costly dispute resolution shall be minimised. This shall culminate in saving enormous resources in both in terms of energy, time and funds.

This model is a step towards coalition democracy in an endeavour to treatise power structures which are threatened by the political class. It presents an opportunity for coalitions to show case their home-grown democracy. The lessons learned may eventually lead to the adoption of the model in party primaries, national general election and even among other bodies like trade unions, trade/farmer organisations, clubs and associations. 

Suffice to state that there is no election model anywhere in the democratic world which is perfect. The key to a democratic, free, credible, accountable and verifiable election process is trust among all stakeholders.

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