University politics have shifted from ‘liquor’ driven campaigns to ‘serious’ strategy-based discourse, thanks to the new electoral college system
Since the new system was adopted last year, those aspiring for political office have been forced to change tactics to win favours with students
Student politics can be very lucrative and propel the office holder into national politics. The likes of Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Siaya Senator James Orengo and Paul Ongiri alias Babu Owino (MP Embakasi East) were all once student leaders.
The incumbent student leaders who spoke to the Campus Vibe revealed that in order to win their posts, they had to court supporter and ‘plant’ them strategically to win the elections.
Brian Okeja, the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) students’ president revealed that he was strategic and ensured that his loyalists won the seats they were gunning for to guarantee that he had enough electoral college votes.
“I spent most of my time planning how to ensure my supporters capture the seats they were vying for,” said Okeja.
“In some cases, I supported two candidates to increase the chances of getting my people winning crucial seats.”
He noted that unlike in the past when one would buy liquor and ice-cream to entice student voters, he now focuses on being strategic and having enough funds to get support.
“It was easy to win the seats in the past because all you needed to do was buy liquor for male students and ice-cream for the ladies. But with the current system, you have to come up with student-friendly strategies,” the fourth-year business commerce student said.
Wycliffe Kipsang, president Kenyatta University Students’ Association (KUSA), says he employed the ‘lie low’ tactic so that he is seen as neutral by all candidates to win their support.
“The new system of elections is a tough one. I ensured that I was not seen to be supporting particular school representatives in the 19 schools we have in the university. I had to stay neutral, unlike my competitors who openly supported their preferred candidates,” said Kipsang.
However, he kept personal contact with all the candidates until the elections were over, then embarked on a mission to get votes from those who won as representatives.
“This provided a solid support base for me over the other five competitors. I had a total of 29 votes against Samuel Njoroge who garnered 27 after a re-run as stipulated by our constitution,” he said.
Cecil Omondi of University of Eldoret said he was set in between double campaigns to see him clinch the students’ top seat.
“I had to campaign to win over the students, then also campaign to win favours with the candidates for various seats. They accepted my manifesto and voted for me. A majority of those I supported won their seats thus it was easy sailing for me,” Omondi, a fourth-year project planning and management student said.
As for Racheal Kimong’o from Pwani University who vied under the old system, she still had to buying liquor and ice-cream to get votes.
“It was a good investment that paid off as I was able to win the seat,” said Kimong’o.
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