• The citizenry has long stopped associating political office with service delivery but rather privilege, especially due to the scarcity of opportunity and poor livelihoods for the people.
• Candidates must, therefore, demonstrate use of cash through posturing as a smokescreen for electability
The international Day of Democracy is celebrated every September 15 and this year’s theme focused on Covid-19, spotlighting how this has affected our democracy as a country.
It’s quite an oddity that a section of government is acting as if in opposition, while the main opposition is for all intents and purposes in government.
This was demonstrated by this week’s meeting at State House, where President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga met together with the Senate leadership to help resolve the revenue sharing impasse.
Notably, Deputy President William Ruto was conspicuously absent. His most ardent supporters have recently been acting as the main opposition to their own government. On the other hand, supporters of Raila have been acting as if they are in government, with any serious national matter having to be negotiated between the President and the ODM leader.
The clear demarcation of government versus opposition has been blurred such that it’s no longer possible to state clearly who is o which side. This is further compounded by county governments as new centres of political power, hence, spheres of democracy.
The stalemate on the third-generation formula has caused paralysis in county operations, including healthcare. Interestingly, Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, who was present at the State House meeting, has since issued a directive that all county health facilities be closed for 14 days due to the current cash crunch. A countrywide shutdown.
The fact that he didn’t wait for a final Senate resolution on the matter serves to demonstrate the confusion that arises when national government policy fails to align with that of the counties.
In an ensuing blame game, senators are accusing governors of misappropriating the Sh5 billion given to counties to address the Covid-19 pandemic. Clearly, Covid-19 millionaires have already been minted, waiting to unleash their loot in the next round of ‘democratic’ elections in 2022 to occupy seats or influence political leadership as a means to cushion themselves - or to continue looting.
The fact that democracy is in crisis across the world cannot be gainsaid.
With the advent of big money as a key factor, it’s no longer enough for candidates to address the people in a public square and thereafter let the people decide on who is best to lead them.
Elections have been hijacked by machinations and manipulation and the masses can’t trust what politicians say or promise due to past failures.
Further, the ‘citizens united’ case in America reintroduced big money by special interests in politics as epitomised by the election of Donald Trump as US President, a person with no record of holding public office.
In Kenya’s case, one needs to be a billionaire to run a successful presidential campaign, leave alone win. The same case applies to the lower seats such as that of governor and MP. The seats of senator and woman representative are relatively inexpensive due to their novelty and the fact that not many people perceive the seats to have the requisite gravitas for access to resources and influence peddling.
However, MCAs' sets are the most inexpensive, but also the most competitive since at this level, people of limited means, education and experience are able to make it to public office. Here, ‘people power’ tends to prevail more than in any other political seat, resulting in the high turnover of MCAs.
The citizenry has long stopped associating political office with service delivery but rather privilege, especially due to the scarcity of opportunity and poor livelihoods for the people. Therefore, candidates must demonstrate the use of cash through posturing as a smokescreen for electability, yet this serves to weaken the very will of the people as the fundamental tenet of democracy.
Moreover, the masses aren’t as gullible even when they are easily manipulated. They too have their own agenda as well that piles pressure on how candidates respond to their demands.
The ideological polarity that threatens new ideas while at the same time keeping people in some kind of gridlock, coupled with tribalism, racism and the fusion of political ideologies along these lines, leads to the personality-based politics of patronage and the patrimonial tendencies of human nature.
This greatly interferes with the internal logic of democracy as a system of government of the people, by the people and for the people. Further, the contradiction with democracy is that you must not only connect with the masses to be elected but also make hard choices that are unpopular with the same masses for the sake of the country’s development. Yet you still need to be reelected by the same masses; hence, the basis for a weak state, political decay and consequential under-development.
Looking at all of the above, we can thus conclude democracy as practiced is inherently flawed, and there is therefore need for an alternative form of government that will enable countries such as Kenya to develop.