EASY IDENTIFICATION

New Bill proposes use of nicknames on the ballot

Senator Maina says voters easily identify politicians with their nicknames

In Summary
  • Denying politicians the use of popular names makes it difficult for voters to identify their preferred candidates
  • Both Governors Waititu and Mbuvi had to swear affidavits to have their respective names ‘Babayao’ and ‘Sonko’ gazetted
Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina who was speaking to the media at Lusoi area in Kieni Constituency, Nyeri County on Sunday.
Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina who was speaking to the media at Lusoi area in Kieni Constituency, Nyeri County on Sunday.

Politicians will be allowed to use their nicknames on ballot papers if a proposed law gets parliamentary approval.

Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina says in the new Bill that voters easily identify politicians with their nicknames.

His Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to amend the Elections Act, No. 24 of 2011, to allow a candidate to choose their designation on a party primary or election ballot papers.  

The senator says that denying politicians the use of popular names makes it difficult for voters to identify their preferred candidates during voting.

“The ultimate goal of an election is to ensure the electorate chooses its preferred leaders in a free and fair environment. Name recognition thus becomes an important aspect of a free and fair election and should be enabled to the fullest extent.

The proposal is meant to ensure that a voter easily identifies his or her preferred candidate on a ballot and to vote in the way he or she intends.

“Candidates should therefore not be unduly restricted in the way they present themselves to the electorate on the ballot and other election-related material as this hinders the realisation of the candidate’s right to, without unreasonable restrictions, contest in an election and the electorate’s right to free expression of will, as contemplated under Article 38 of the Constitution.”

Currently, the law only permits the use of a candidate’s official name as it appears in the voters' register and in the national ID.

A candidate who wishes to have his or her nickname included on a ballot paper has to go through a lengthy and cumbersome process of changing his or her name through the procedures set out in the law.

Both Governors Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and Mike Mbuvi (Nairobi) had to swear affidavits to have their respective names ‘Babayao’ and ‘Sonko’ gazetted.

In the proposed arrangement, candidates will only have to get the approval of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

“This Bill, therefore, seeks to provide for the inclusion of a candidate’s popular name on a ballot paper while at the same time safeguarding the sanctity of the electoral process.”

Many candidates have argued that using a nickname on the ballot facilitates recognition among voters.