Archive | May, 2017

ELECTION PREPAREDNESS: THREATS AND RISKS FROM LEGITIMATE POLITICAL COMPETITION

6 May

By Javas Bigambo

Kenya is yet again headed to another general election, whose stakes are evidently high, and political daggers are already drawn. Among the many questions arising is whether we are well prepared for the general election.

Proper election preparedness is crucial in the advancement of democracy. Political parties as institutions, aided by vibrant and objective civil society, advancing idealpolitik and realpolitik, contribute to the blossoming of democracy.

Political and public institutions aligned to politics are the aorta of democracy, whose backbone is the rule of law.

As Abraham Lincoln easily paused in his pivotal address at the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, “What has this to do with the perpetuation of our political institutions?”

Political institutions are the wheels on which democracy runs. Democracy, like freedom, must always be chosen, and sustained by the resolve of a nation.

Democracy is a critical precursor to fundamental freedoms in any free society.

By it’s nature, democracy prioritises the sanctity of the vote, and guarantees the right of that vote, not just to be cast, but to be counted with regard to the intention of the voter.

Proper preparedness for election broadens bolsters not only democracy, but speaks to the soundness of the perpetuation of political institutions.

Already political mobilisation is at an advanced stage. Opposition Coalition NASA has finally determined its direction by settling on Raila Odinga as its flag-bearer.

National Super Alliance (NASA) has settled on Raila Odinga as its presidential flag-bearer. Mr. Odinga is Jubilee’s fiercest critic.

Jubilee Party on its part is looking to battle it out once more with one of its fiercest critics that Raila Odinga is.

President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have dismissed NASA and Raila Odinga, terming NASA as a “coalition of jobs for the boys”.

But is the country ready for elections?

Here in Kenya, it would be erroneous to assume that election preparedness is the primary and sole task of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

It would be altogether pernicious to the dictates of democracy’s growth, to leave much of election preparedness to the IEBC.

Successful, credible, verifiable and transparent elections increasingly depend on the collective efforts of key stakeholders, a team that constitutes the principal institution planning and overseeing the elections (IEBC), the judiciary, political parties, civil society, relevant commissions such as the National Cohesion Integration Commission (NCIC), the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the media, and the participation of the general public.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezron Cheloba at a recent press briefing on election preparedness.

It can no more be negated that Kenya’s growing democracy is a patchwork of a nation’s resilience, vigilance, steadfastness and diligence in political actions. Each country has its unique path to democracy.

While the key principles of democracy are universal, the flesh that covers the bones that those principles remain different, unique, and of different shades and hues.

When one mulls over electioneering trends and practices, question arises as to whether the challenge in Kenya’s democracy is the weaker political institutions, the tetchy politicians or the people.

When the dotes are connected, some don’t still realise that when unions demand salary increases for workers, government raises the money through increase in taxes, which directly affects the cost of living.

When corruption goes unpunished, white elephant projects become the norm, standard projects become unreasonably high, the exchequer pays even more for the same projects, and the nefarious, unscrupulous public servants, working in cahoots with service providers, milk public coffers dry, and a bad culture is sustained through the fame of emboldened corrupt individuals who are celebrated as wealthy.

Lawless spirits always beget lawless public servants and lawless business people.

When tribalism and political tribal blocks are hailed as cryptic political arithmetic that wins political office, the smaller ethnic groups gather in the cold corners of minority positioning, and end up having their voices drowned in the sea of national politics.

When greedy business men and women become the trusted advisors to the holders of public office, roper service delivery is threatened, and accountability is eschewed.

These are things that choke a nation, threaten development, and create darkness at high noon.

As we head to the 2017 general election, political tension is at the heart of its preparation.

Each side is suspecting the other, and one would be forgiven to conclude that each side seems to be sounding the drumbeats of war.

Assumptions and presuppositions, accusations and counter-accusations, suspicion upon suspicion, and ego against ego, no side is resting easy.

What makes our elections replete with violence is ostensibly the lack of fresh ideas from the political class, who continually cling on tribal affiliations, and a population too that does not demand political leadership that can re-invent itself with ideas, not wealth and egos.

It does not seem to concern many Kenyans that no side in this divide has come up with ideas on how to combat climate change; a new strategy to counter AIDS; a puzzling idea on how to make famine a thing of the past; how to sort out the healthcare mess; how to ultimately deal a blow to corrupt public servants (by the way, majority of the party stalwarts on each side have benefitted from or abated corruption); how to reduce the cost of monthly electricity bills; or perhaps how to make business and employment opportunities available to everyone equally.

Instead, each side is nippy to demonize the other, and spewing epithets that make no sense for public good and progress.

What’s even more troubling is that those with ideas are seen as ‘academic’, statements made to possibly declare that being academic is not cool, yet education is declared a right by the Constitution.

Overwhelming evidence shows that democracy itself is a product of education and academics.

While by each election the state of our democracy seems to be growing stronger, the calibrations of such growth are known by the marks of strife, deaths, injuries, violence, compromises, sacrifice, reforms, and resilience. A whole catalogue of pains, sorrows, joys and forward-falling.

With all these, at no time can we say that we were very well prepared for the general election, even those times when we really thought we were, the contested election results, especially at the presidential level, have always brought out one reality – that we have never been satisfactorily prepared.

All political and media spaces need to be used to make the atmosphere conducive for a cohesive nation, especially as we move toward the 2017 general election.

The media should play a crucial role in this direction. Political analysts appearing on television and radio should be men and women of solid ideas and objective enough to strengthen public discourse toward a stronger democracy.

Javas Bigambo: Analysts appearing on television and radio should have solid ideas and be objective enough to strengthen public discourse toward a stronger democracy.

his is the kind of confidence that IEBC, the judiciary and all political parties must build.

The opposition coalition (National Super Alliance – NASA) on its part must not keep chastising the IEBC and incessantly viewing it through the lenses of suspicion.

The government too should act in such manner that a demonstration of possible mischief is not construed.

Only then can we aver that we are genuinely, collectively and diligently preparing for elections, regardless of heightening political competition.

Free and fair elections are a function of adequate financing and proper preparation, which makes democracy possible.

Democracy has no perfection, it is always work in progress, an inheritance across generations.

The writer can be reached through jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke