• Elections provide a platform for electors to identify leaders to represent, legislate and oversight the nation’s resources over the next five years.
• The aim should be the improvement of the people’s welfare.
The country is going to the much-awaited elections on Tuesday.
That stated, the road to the democracy enjoyed in Kenya today should never be taken for granted. It has come at great cost to the nationals predating the colonial period.
Only 13 per cent of global citizens live in a working democracy, according to Amber McReynolds, a member of Issue One’s National Council on Election Integrity and one of the US’s leading experts on election administration and policy.
The onus of a free and fair election is a responsibility of all the stakeholders starting with the electors, candidates, arms of the government arms (the Executive, the Judiciary and Parliament, media, religious organisations, business community, civil society and the general population.
According to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US president, elections belong to the people and it is their decision.
In the event they decide to turn their back on the fire and in the process burn their backs, they will have little choice but to repose on their blisters.
In later years, Winston Churchill, the British wartime Prime Minister, said, “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.”
This scepticism was perhaps justified after the British voted him out from his position within months of winning the Second World War.
Closer home in Africa, renowned South Africa anti-apartheid hero and former South African President Nelson Mandela pronounced, "An educated and enlightened population is one of the surest ways of promoting health of democracy".
The electoral process provides a platform for electors to identify leaders who are mandated with a a covenant to represent, legislate and oversight the nation’s resources over the next five years.
The aim should be the improvement of the people’s welfare. This is in terms of services provided and improved standard of living.
In Kenya, whether by design or by default, there is a far-reaching absence of public understanding of how our elections are managed. Voters cast their ballot and await the results, but otherwise know very little about the inner workings of the process thereafter. This ultimately poses a huge deficiency in building the country's democratic process.
To overcome the above, this is how to the electoral management body can build confidence among stakeholders in the election.
First, ensure electors are registered in their place of choice without fear or intimidation.
Second, establish a mechanism through which electors can seek redress from the electoral management body, in this case the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission.
Third, ensure all aspirants and later candidates are given equal opportunities to campaign in any part of their target catchment.
Fourth, prepare the elections in accordance with the constitution and the law to avoid costly legal redress.
Fifth, roll out a combination of civic, political and voter education programmes countrywide. This echoes the words of Mandela, who said an educated, enlightened and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.
Six, ensure the entire electoral process is explained countrywide to interest groups preferably up to the ward level.
Seven, guarantee the electoral infrastructure is up to date and in compliance with all the legal provisions.
Eight, the government should mandate the electoral commission to sign up to the fact funds should be linked to changes that they implement.
The changes envisaged include automatic voter registration, which is proven to improve the accuracy of voter details, regular voter register maintenance to ensure voters can vote where they live so that there is maximum voter turnout.
In conclusion, there should be a deliberate effort to roll out pro-voter policy and process innovations to improve the election system.
Opening up the process and visibility to the workings of the poll body inspires better understanding as well as confidence in the democratic process.
Dr Njau Gitu is an educator practicing as a governance and public policy adviser