- What's the objective of the media in subjecting us to a constant campaign mode?
- The genuine ones simply want to persuade us with their agenda and promote their various political parties.
Our politicians have made us to be in a perennial mood for campaigns and constant tension over who will be in leadership come 2027. The electorate are permanently being fed through the media with what politicians do on a daily basis. The Kenyan media, just like our peers world over, have their favourites.
Why talk about what politicians do on a daily basis? Well, looking at the news in Kenya, you realise that most are always on campaign mode. It's either done through press conferences, launches, weddings, harambees, funerals or even during barazas meetings.
What's the objective of the media in subjecting us to a constant campaign mode? The genuine ones simply want to persuade us with their agenda and promote their various political parties. It's obvious that to persuade, change attitudes and encourage a particular voting behaviour, their agenda has to be repeated over and over again to stick. And that might be what we call political persuasion.
Then there are those politicians who simply don’t care about promoting any agenda. Instead, they are busy amassing wealth, through all means possible with the aim of enriching themselves and their generations to come and looking for campaign money. In fact, you only hear about them when the general election is almost. These are the ones whose main agenda is vote buying and they know the big secret.
In any society where there is inequality and huge residues of poverty, elections for sale is a common thing. It’s a willing buyer, willing seller kind of arrangement. Some electorate think that this is normal. In fact, some think that it’s a good thing to sell one’s vote, as many times as possible. Recently in Uganda, after efforts to convince citizens vote buying failed, a group came up with a campaign ‘eat widely, vote wisely’. But is this the right approach?
How sustainable is it to eat widely? Once you eat widely, one thing that is for sure, is that you sell the democratic power that you have to the highest bidder. Middle-aged women, men and the youth are the most vulnerable to such strategies. Some critics may argue that there are many causes to this, but so are there many consequences. One of them being poverty.
According to statista, on their report on people living in extreme poverty in 2022, more than 7.8 million people in Kenya lived in extreme poverty, citing the majority in rural areas. The report says that those living on less than $1.90 a day in rural regions added up to some 7.8 million, while 1.2 million extremely poor people dwelt in urban areas. So if a politician works with these numbers and even more (the lower income and the low-middle income) then their vote buying agenda is secured.
But is this what we want? Are we just numbers for the small crop of rogue leaders to play around with? The solution first lies within us to work on making ourselves economically independent and educate ourselves to escape the trap.
Our community and religious leaders also have a huge role to play in inculcating ethics in society. Most importantly, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and other relevant partners can work out a cocktail of solutions to curb vote buying.
So is a reform possible? Voter education should be done more vigorously, and as early as now. There can be more emphasis on big powerful parties rather than individual contestants. In countries where there are very few strong parties, the likelihood of vote buying is lower.
The writer is a communications researcher and scholar, currently pursuing Peace and Development Work Studies in Sweden ([email protected])