In exactly one year’s time, Kenyans will be trooping to voting booths across the country to vote for hundreds of leaders of their choice. Amongst them will be nearly six million first-time voters — young people who were not of age in 2017 when we last voted. They will comprise a critical swing-vote that can easily decide the elections. This youth deserve to be presented with a menu of far-sighted leaders whose parties must be known for their respective ideologues.
Political parties bear a huge responsibility in electoral preparedness. We may not be a two-party democracy like the United States, but we do have a multi-party system of democracy that didn’t come easy. We must therefore make the most of this system by consistently insisting that as elections draw close, parties must adopt and implement their ideologies.
Most political parties in the country do not have recognizable ideological identity. Kenyans must consider this when voting for given party candidates. Indeed, votes should not just be cast for personalities, but also for the ideologies of their parties.
In the same vein, those who are vying for seats should focus on selling their agenda to the electorate. They shouldn’t waste time massaging the egos of party leaders and luminaries. The more they sell their agenda, the more their politics will be issue-based, which is exactly what we need in the upcoming elections.
The big question is this — are we ready for the elections? Are the political parties ready? Are the three arms of government ready? Are the security forces ready? And most important, is the electorate ready?
Sharon Salzberg the American author captured the immense responsibility of voting when she wrote that, “Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country, and this world.” Every time we vote, we are expressing our commitment to each other that we shall elect leaders who will make Kenya and the world a better place.
On the logistical side of voting, IEBC is reported to have commenced the process of procuring 100 electoral materials that include election and referendum declaration forms, ballot papers plus registrar of voters. Even as this process unfolds, a former IEBC Commissioner has already warned that inviting foreign companies to submit their application for producing the voter registry might end up compromising this all-important registry. Although his warning is isolated at the moment, it can easily metamorphose into a chorus and thus jeopardize the integrity of the elections. We must address all these issues now instead of crying about them later. Outstandingly, the general planning and interpretation for the execution of electoral activities is critical for successful elections. Once IEBC and partners strongly create a firm infrastructure for management, justice, improved security and peace, we shall approach the election day with unprecedented confidence.
Registration of new voters is sensitive and has to be at the forefront. IEBC is targeting registration of at least four million new voters. They must undertake this task with urgency and professionalism. If they don’t do so, they might disenfranchise millions of Kenyans, particularly the youth who are first time voters. They are the ones who can secure the gains of devolution by voting wisely, in a non-tribal manner. Accordingly, it is critical that IEBC and related institutions focus in addressing all internal and external factors that may trigger election-related malpractices.
Are these Kenyan voters ready for the next elections? Don’t we now realize that a country’s leaders are a reflection of its people? If we end up with tribal leaders, it shall be because we are a tribal people. If we end up with corrupt leaders, it shall also be because we ourselves are corrupt. As such, the most important preparation for the next elections doesn’t lie with IEBC, Legislators, the Judiciary or the security forces. Rather, the largest preparation lies with the more than twenty million Kenyans who shall cast their votes. Great leaders elected will guide us to sustainably exploit our Economic, Social and Natural capital. We must therefore Think and act green.