As Kenyans are now aware, apathy among Kenyans is much, growing and very bad for Kenyan democracy whose death can only follow that of elections.
As we observe eminent apathy of citizens to register as voters all over the country, many Kenyans are asking what its genesis could be. And there are many reasons.
With the commercialization of politics, many poor Kenyans are not just asking to be paid for attending meetings to discuss their problems, but are also asking to be paid to register as voters and for identity cards. Some even want to be paid to collect identity cards from chiefs’ offices.
Ultimately, Kenyans will ask to be paid to vote for particular candidates who will pay as the price of buying leadership which they will then own as their property and later only use to serve voters at a fee that will be much higher than leaders paid for votes.
What then looks like voters’ apathy is not real apathy but voters lining up to be paid a fee to register as voters and later to cast their votes.
The apathy of voters also manifests itself when they don’t have a hot issue to vote for. For instance, Kenyans voted overwhelmingly for independence from colonialism and later for democracy against one party dictatorship.
Kenyans also voted overwhelmingly for the new constitution and to rescue President Uhuru and Deputy William Ruto from ICC.
If voters are lethargic toward registration as voters, it is because this election does not offer a hot issue over which Kenyans can register as voters and later vote for.
If you reflect on the long lines of voters when voting against colonialism and for independence, later when emotionally voting for multiparty democracy against one party dictatorship and current lack of mobilization for any social or political problem and solution to vote for, it becomes clear why there is so much apathy.
Apathy to register as voters and later vote is also a reflection that there is a higher level of dictatorship that is not encouraging solution of issues through elections just as enthusiasm to register as voters and later vote is an expression of a higher level of democracy that is encouraging debate and solution of issues through elections.
If a high belief in elections as a solution of problems of bad leadership and other problems is evidence of flourishing democracy, apathy in registration of voters and voting are evidence of creeping and flourishing dictatorship that is eroding people’s faith in democracy and elections. To register as voters and voting means people have faith they have democracy, while not registering as voters and refusing to vote is indication people have no faith in the system as a functioning and reliable democracy.
Encouraging voter registration and voting is therefore strengthening democracy while keeping away from registering as voters and voting is killing democracy and encouraging dictatorship to take root.
Stealing votes and rigging elections is also something that encourages apathy in registering as voters and voting later. If people are convinced that elections will be rigged, most will without a doubt boycott elections. Why would anybody want to register as a voter or even vote when they are sure elections will be rigged or stolen?
Certainly one way of ending apathy and encouraging people to vote is to reassure people that elections will be free and fair and will not be rigged or stolen. There is no way people can be encouraged to register as voters and later vote if they are convinced elections will be rigged and leaders do not reassure and convince them that elections will not be stolen?
Encouraging Kenyans to register as voters and later vote is a national duty and strengthening democracy. As such, it is not a partisan exercise that government leaders should only encourage in areas where they are strong and opposition leaders only encourage in their ethnic or political areas. To the extent that there can be no democracy without elections and there can be no elections without voting, both government and opposition leaders should unite in encouraging Kenyans to register as voters and later vote all over the country.