In 2000, America had one of the most interesting elections in the world. George W. Bush, the son of former President George H.W. Bush, was running against the incumbent Vice President Al Gore.
Al Gore was Vice President to Bill Clinton, the man who had stopped George H.W. Bush from a second term eight years earlier.
When the results were in, Bush had 47.9 per cent
( 50,456,002 ) of the popular vote while Al Gore had 48.4 per cent ( 50,999,897 ). Bush had lost the popular vote to Al Gore.
However, in America the electoral vote is the supreme determinant of who becomes president. The election therefore hinged on the electoral vote in Florida, where the slim margin of victory triggered a recount. This issue was litigated all the way to the Supreme Court, which made a decision that gave the Florida victory to Bush, thus declaring the man who had lost the popular vote president.
This was the fourth occasion in America’s over 230-year post-independence history when a candidate had lost the presidency despite winning the popular vote.
In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote against John Quincy Adams, but Adams was declared president by the House of Representatives under a provision of the US constitution that gave them the power to do so when there is a tie on electoral votes.
In 1876, Samuel Tilden won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote but lost the electoral vote to Rutherford Hayes, who went on to become president. In 1888, the incumbent, President Grover Cleveland, won the popular vote against Benjamin Harrison but lost in the Electoral College. Harrison became president. On each of the four occasions, America moved on. In most cases, the man who had lost the popular vote went on to win his re-election four years later.
When Americans have to choose between ‘popular’ and ‘constitutional’, they know popular does not cut it.
In 2007, Kenyans faced a similar situation. The ‘popular’ candidate did not become president. The candidate argued that the voice of the Kenyan people had spoken and marshalled his followers to the streets. We changed our constitution to accommodate him.
But the voice of the Kenyan people is the constitution. It is a structured consultative document that dictates how Kenyans want to be governed, and by who. The current voice of the people was agreed upon by close to 70 per cent of Kenyans — close to 28 million people.
Some 28 million Kenyans decided that the IEBC must be independent of political influence. They decided the IEBC must be established or disbanded through certain laid-down procedures. They made it clear that when appointing the commissioners, a certain process must be followed.
Today, Cord’s Raila Odinga wants us to determine the fate of our electoral body using what he calls the ‘popular’ route. Like he did in 2007, he has been marshalling his followers to go to the streets to force the issue. He wants the IEBC disbanded immediately and replaced with political appointees from various parties.
Essentially Raila wants us to rubbish a decision made by 28 million Kenyans on how they want the IEBC to function because he can mobilise a few thousand people into the streets one day every week. He wants us to take what he is presenting as the ‘popular’ option. Ironically, he is using the same constitution he is rubbishing to justify what he is doing!
Raila is testing our resolve. It is time to prove to him that we are a nation governed by established laws, not temporary selective popular initiatives.
Raila odinga wants us to rubbish a decision made by 28 million Kenyans on how they want the IEBC to function