Is this the Year of the ‘Underdogs’ in Kenyan Politics?

Voters crowded at a polling station to cast their vote.PictureCourtesy
Voters crowded at a polling station to cast their vote.PictureCourtesy

Going by the army of men and women who turned up for party nominations and as independent candidates, Kenya has no shortage of leaders.

What we may be lacking is leaders who meet the integrity test and have  leadership qualities.                                             Indeed, the overwhelming turnout by voters during the just-concluded chaotic, violent and closely fought party nomination exercise is a confirmation of the desperate and high unemployment levels in the country.

It was a free for all. In Kericho County a graduate, who is a watchman, beat his rivals to clinch the MCA nomination ticket while in Kisumu City, an MCA beat the incumbent MP and a former Secretary General of a national party; and in Kiambu County, an MP beat the Governor in a controversial nomination dismissed by the latter as flawed because he had seen it coming and alerted the elections board who ignored him.

Surprises were the order of the day. In Baringo County, the Governor, most MPs and MCAs were shown the door by voters, while in Nyeri County, the entire leadership was sent packing starting with the acting Governor, Women’s Rep and two outspoken women MPs among others. In Busia County, one of the aspirants for Governor’s office used “fake news” on a leading newspaper’s masthead and placed it as a poster and dished it out to voters, claiming that his rival had defected on the eve of the party nominations.

Another classic case was of a mother-son rivalry for a parliamentary seat in Bomet County, on separate party tickets, with the mother insisting that they had sat as a family last year and resolved that she would be the flag bearer and not her eldest son! In Kirinyaga County, where two former powerful female Cabinet ministers women are running in the gubernatorial race on different party tickets, the Governor claims he was rigged out in favour of one of them saying he was denied a chance to vote in his own stronghold where ballot papers were destroyed in a fire by irate voters in protests of the exercise.

But Kenyans will remember for a long time to come the shenanigans at the IEBC headquarters where several presidential candidates went for clearance. One was turned away and later accused of attempting to take his life. The following day he was arraigned in court and charged with the offence.

Most of those aspirants who lost in the primaries, organised by leading parties like Jubilee, ODM, Ford Kenya and Wiper among others, have since joined the over 4,000 candidates who have been cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to run as independent candidates for the coveted six elective posts.

According to the 2010 Constitution, any person is eligible to stand as an independent candidate for election if the person is not a member of any of the over 70 registered political parties in the country.

Besides that provision, the person must not have been a member of a political party for at least three months immediately before the election. The deadline was May 8, 2017.

Most of the independent candidates have since claimed that their decision was made after being rigged out and after consulting their supporters who urged them to ensure that they are “on the ballot by hook or crook!”

Many of the independent candidates, also referred to as the underdogs, are former Governors, Senators, County Women Representatives, Members of Parliament and Members of the respective 47 county assemblies. Their names read like the who-is-who in Kenyan politics where “the rich also cry.”

The ‘underdogs’ have even formed a lobby and are now demanding that their constitutional rights are respected and that they be treated with respect by the front runners in the presidential race and by the leaders of the over 70 registered political parties.

Eight candidates have been cleared by IEBC to run for the highest and most powerful office in the country. They include three independent candidates, after four other colleagues were knocked out in the eleventh hour for failing to meet the minimum threshold and requirements which included a list of certified voters from half of the 47 counties, integrity clearance certificate, university credentials and a Shs200,000 cheque.

So far, IEBC chairman, Wafula Chebukati,  has cleared over 16,000 candidates for the most expensive and competitive General Elections in the country’s history.

According to a parliamentary candidate in Nairobi, the cost of running a campaign for a Governor in the big political party in the recent nomination exercise was a cool Shs25 million, while that for Senator, MP and MCA was between Shs15million and Shs5 million. That did not include other hidden costs like buying rivals to step down, or influencing party officials and the police on the eve of the polls among others.

The coveted six elective seats are presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial, the county Women’s Representative (MP), area Member of Parliament and Member of the County Assembly (MCA). Voters will not have it easy either as they will have to pick one candidate for each sit from a very long list, especially of MCAs.

Nazlin Umar-Photo Courtesy

Nazlin Umar-Photo Courtesy

So far, no woman is among the eight presidential candidates after the only one , Nazlin Umar, was knocked out by IEBC on technicalities. She has since appealed in the High Court.

Several women have been cleared to run as Senators and a handful as Governors, for the 47 seats, respectively. But most women candidates are gunning for the 47 County Women MP’s and 290 parliamentary seats  and over 1,450 MCAs’ posts across the country.

The casualty rate of women aspirants in the just-concluded hotly contested, violent and chaotic party nominations is one of the highest in the country’s history.

Out of the handful who vied in Jubilee, ODM and Wiper, the three most popular parties, for the gubernatorial race, only six romped home as victors eying the 47 seats.

The case was not any better for those in the senatorial race, only three women leaders made it in the major political parties for the 47 seats to be filled in August 8 during the General Elections.

Those who were defending or vying for parliamentary seats in their respective parties also suffered at the hands of voters, party and/or election officials.

Details of the women aspirants for the Member of the County Assemblies had still not been made public, but indications was that the axe fell on many of them.

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