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February 23, 2019

Raila's strategy was bound to fail

NASA principal Raila Odinga at Mama Ngina grounds during NASA rally.Photo / JOHN CHESOLI
NASA principal Raila Odinga at Mama Ngina grounds during NASA rally.Photo / JOHN CHESOLI

Elections are divisive. In fact our Constitution envisions that the process will cause divisions. MCAs, MPs, woman representatives, senators and governors are elected by a simple majority. The President is elected by half of the voters, plus one. In all cases the Constitution envisions a reality that there will be people who will vote for the person who wins while others will vote for the person who loses. However, there will be a winner validly elected.

In the case of the President, the Constitution envisions that for one to be validly elected he or she must get at least 50 per cent of votes cast, plus one. This means that 50 per cent minus one vote will be cast for someone else, or for some other people. In all the other elective offices it is possible for one to be elected into office by a minority. In fact in many cases the elected persons in these offices end up with the highest number of votes amongst all other contenders but less than the votes of all the other contenders cumulatively.

For example, if in a ward election the winner gets 40 per cent of the vote, the runner-up gets 25, and the other four candidates get 15, 10, seven and three; the winner will be announced as MCA despite the fact that 60 per cent of the voters did not vote for him. This scenario applies to MPs, senators or governors.

However in all cases – from President to MCA – the person who wins, whether it is by a minority or by a majority – is validly in office. They then automatically take up the responsibility of their office on behalf of everyone in the ward, constituency, county, or country; including the minority or majority who did not vote for them.

But on the flipside this same reality of elections means that a losing candidate can decide to make life very difficult for the elected leader; at any level. If, for example, the MCA above who won with 40 per cent was pitted against a sore loser who came number 2 with 25 per cent of the vote, and this runner-up decides to be difficult, they can easily get their supporters on the streets to demonstrate against the winner. If the runner-up has charisma and pushes the narrative that he won and the announced winner stole his victory, his supporters will believe him because no one votes for someone to lose.

Any serious candidate, for any elective position, can marshal enough supporters to cause chaos and disruption against the winner, should they so desire. Hillary Clinton could have done it against Donald Trump. William Kabogo could have done it against Ferdinand Waititu. Evans Kidero could have done it against Mike Sonko.

Each of these people lost the election, despite being hugely popular to a pretty large segment of voters. They could have decided to have their disappointed supporters riot in the streets. They might even have decided to go ahead and organise their own swearing-in.

But it would have been illegal, reckless, unconstitutional and just simply politically immature. It could also easily have led to violence, bloodshed, destruction and maybe even deaths.

Ultimately, it would have sadly achieved nothing (except maybe to soothe the ego of the one who lost).Elections would mean nothing if people who lost got accommodated into the offices of those who won, simply by causing chaos in the streets. It would form a terrible precedent for all future elections.

It is sad that Raila Odinga chose this route. It is important that he failed.

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