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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Most Complex Presidential Elections Ever, Coming Up

I have learnt in life that the best policy is to keep things as simple. This is true in everything you handle in this life.

The way things stand, this year's presidential election is going to be the most complex ever.

For instance the current MP for Marakwet East, Mrs Linah Chebii Kilimo in her defection announcement this week only announced a defection in the presidential candidate she is going to support. She did not indicate which party she would use to seek re-election. However she ruled out Narc Kenya.

There is a very high possibility that Narc Kenya will probably not even bother to market itself in most of the Rift Valley and will instead leave its' allies like Kanu to sort out things in the expansive province.

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But my main point is that the old semi illiterate voter stuck in that booth in Marakwey East on that late December day will have to vote for instance the councilor from a party like ODM using one ballot paper, then of he wishes to re-elect Mrs Kilimo will have to find her and the party she will be running under possibly Kaddu or Kanu in yet another very crowded piece of paper. And then for president, they will have to find Mwai Kibaki and whatever coalition he will be running under. And all this is a maze of at least 50 or so political parties listed in the ballot paper. This is the kind of exercise that would be an intellectual challenge even for some voters in the United States, let alone that semi illiterate farm laborer somewhere Marakwet East.

It is really no accident that since the re-introduction of multiparty democracy in 1992, the vast majority of Kenyans have tended to vote what is wide referred to as the 3-piece-suit. That means the same party for councilor (most voters are hardly interested in that one), MP and president. This is the simplest of things to do quickly.

The electoral commission may just have to explore the possibility of having the local authority and parliamentary elections on one day and then the presidential on the following day or a day or two later. Or alternatively start with the presidential and move on to the lesser ones. And they might just have to liaise with the president on this one because I can see the confusion and long delays that may result at polling stations as voters try and find their preferred candidates in the maze of numerous candidates.

It would have been much easier if we had gone into these elections in the same way we went into the 2002 polls where there were just two major parties, Kanu and the opposition. But alas, it is already clear that this time around, that will never definitely not be the case.

Then there is the question of whether this was the best strategy for President Kibaki's handlers to opt for. That is seeking alliances with parties to support only the president. That is a very complex question and there are some that would just brush it aside pointing to the fact that it is the best way to get the president re-elected. In my book it is a very risky strategy because MPs could easily change their minds on the ground when the wind changes. This is usually much more difficult to do when one is in the same party as the president.

However it is definitely not the best thing for Kenya and this insistence by politicians to deliberately pursue a balkanization policy and approach for Kenya with tribal grouping and tribal chiefs and headmen ruling the day is something that is in fact very harmful to democracy and the future of the country. It may just end up backfiring very badly with a record number of spoilt votes and long delays at the polling stations as voters try and figure out the complex quiz that will be the ballot papers his time.

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