WHEN ALL'S SAID AND DONE

Uhuru could make electoral reforms his legacy

Mayhem after the last three polls was caused by bungled elections, not executive structure

In Summary

• Big Four will amount to zilch if Kenya explodes in 2022 as a result of poorly managed elections.

Let’s assume that the political elites succeed in their push for a referendum to restructure the government and expand the Executive to accommodate more tribal kingpins.

Let’s also suppose that the Deputy President and his Tangatanga team oppose the referendum, while President Uhuru Kenyatta, Opposition leader Raila Odinga and the Kieleweke brigade support it. 

Let’s also presume that immediately after the referendum, these two opposing camps mutate into political parties and approach the election with the country in a state of heightened anxiety as was the case in the 2007 general election that was preceded by the Orange and Banana referendum.

 

It’s also an acknowledged fact that the state of affairs in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is precarious, to say the least.  The commission currently has only three commissioners and the CEO of the secretariat has not yet been recruited.

The commission is the subject of indictment by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee of the National Assembly over billions of wasted funds. It’s alleged that goods were procured and paid for but were never delivered. The commissioners who resigned alleged a lot of misdeeds whose veracity has not been investigated by relevant agencies and parliamentary committees to date.

The commission is also expected to oversee at least two referenda and a boundary delineation before the general election. It’s thus clear that a proper reform of the IEBC within such a busy and tight schedule will be practically impossible.

Following the master stroke of the demonetisation of currency, Uhuru should also think about how to limit financial resources spent on campaigns. How about a strong campaign finance law whose implementation is monitored by the IEBC and the Directorate of Criminal Investigation?

Approaching the 2022 general election after five years of campaigns capped by a divisive referendum and an inefficient, partial and ill-prepared IEBC will be a recipe for disaster should one side of the political formation dispute the election outcome.

If the country witnesses a repeat of the events of the last three elections, President Kenyatta’s legacy will implode. The President means well for the country, although he does not have an enabling environment and loyal lieutenants. It seems part of his political party is opposed to his legacy.

So far he has focused the attention of the nation on his anti-corruption crusade. He has empowered the DCI and DPP, and for the first time we have a focused team in the two dockets. He has also shown a strong desire to unite the nation through the handshake with his hitherto erstwhile political nemesis, Raila

President Kenyatta has also defined and singularly focused the attention of the nation on the Big Four—food security, affordable healthcare, manufacturing and affordable housing. Future governments that will continue with his efforts will help buttress the President’s legacy.

 

But all this will amount to zilch if the country explodes in 2022 as a result of poorly managed elections. The only way to safeguard against this and ensure an enduring legacy is to focus on reforming the IEBC and the electoral systems. This includes political parties and nomination processes. 

Uhuru should push for competent commissioners and demand an equally competent and impartial secretariat. The key focus for the commission should be to deliver a credible election that has the trust and confidence of the electorate and candidates. The cause of the mayhem we witnessed in the last three elections is bungled elections and has little to do with the structure of the executive.

President Kenyatta must be aware that the nature of politics in Kenya breeds corruption. Politicians don’t engage the electorate with policies and manifestoes but with deep pockets. Following the master stroke of the demonetisation of currency, Uhuru should also think about how to limit financial resources spent on campaigns. How about a strong campaign finance law whose implementation is monitored by the IEBC and the Directorate of Criminal Investigation?

If President Kenyatta is able to achieve a competent IEBC, credible election and a smooth transition, he will indeed have a strong legacy. But that journey must start now. The structures and systems required by the electoral agency for a credible election should be in place at least a year before the general election.

Works with the Wajir government