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February 17, 2019

It seems party primaries were set up to fail

Elections 13. Westlands 4 of march./FILE
Elections 13. Westlands 4 of march./FILE

The phrase ‘chaos of apocalyptic proportions’ does not capture the monumental bungle of party nominations of candidates for the August 8 general election. Democratic mayhem perhaps, describes the anarchy.

Democratic elections should renew faith in local and national leadership every five years, but this has been irredeemably bungled. Selecting party candidates for elective positions has been compromised.

The counties are likely to pay heavily for forced choices. Another five years of stagnation seem likely, thanks to this confusion in which money, violence, clannism and blackmail influence choices.

The electorate, the state, the elected, and those aspiring for elective political office should take responsibility for this greed-inspired waste of time and resources. The net loser when democracy is deferred is the economy.

It seems more like the party nominations were set up to fail. Cases of bungled Jubilee and ODM primaries support this view. Jubilee, a party that raised about Sh1 billion from nomination fees, should have given democracy a chance, and value for money for the aspirants.

Cutting the costs of democracy does not explain the incompetence of the organisers of the nominations. Consider this: In a Nandi county polling station, 1,000 ballot papers were delivered for 40,000 registered voters. In another station in Eldoret, a Jubilee stronghold, aspirants claimed 1,000 ballot papers were delivered for 11,000 registered voters.

In Baringo, 64 governor ballot booklets were missing. Some were pre-marked. In Kajiado, an aspirant was found marking ballot papers at Ololaiser School in Kajiado North constituency.

In Nyeri county, police impounded a private car carrying pangas, batons, and ballot papers. Weapons of violence and thuggery alongside documents of civility.

In the ODM zones of Migori and Homa Bay, signs of thuggery were clear. Facts and rumours competed for attention. Claims of marked ballot papers, and stuffed ballot boxes discovered in houses of allies of the incumbents, flew around furiously.

Goons allied to people seeking to retain their positions were defending their exploiters. The incumbents, who were elected in 2013, have metamorphosed into monsters. They will do anything to defend the plunder of public funds.

In a village in Homa Bay, a woman, 48, was dragged out of her house, beaten, stripped naked, and raped. She was left unconscious on a village path.

She had stated the obvious in public: That voters needed a leader who works and sleeps in the county, not one who drives in a convoy daily, to spend the night in Kisumu, about 110km from the official workstation.

The bungled party nominations have shown, as they did in the 2007 and 2013 elections, that political parties lack the competence to manage primaries.

The deliberate attempt to subvert change serves the whims of mendacious individuals. This abiding faith in the status quo by monstrous incumbents is inconsistent with the expectations of the second general election under the 2010 Constitution.

The democratic space is shrinking. The more things change, we can now confirm, the more they remain the same. They are worse, courtesy of a power clique that celebrates the bliss of ignorance.

Two years ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared Kenyans were well informed about public governance, they did not need civic education. Civil society organisations that should bridge the knowledge gap were demonised, and then starved of funding.

Western partners like the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Programme were victimised, intimidated, and then robbed of the will to bridge the gap between the bliss of ignorance and democracy.

The Open Society for East Africa, and other civil society organisations of similar orientation, are now bystanders without a mark of their mandate of creating civic consciousness.

This poor civic awareness serves the whims of the status quo. Informed people are likely to ask questions that rattle the steakholders. To avoid this, deny people access to information.

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