Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The March 4th Elections: Perspectives from an inadvertently unregistered voter

The March 4th Elections: Perspectives from an inadvertently unregistered voter[1]
March 4th will be an historical day for Kenya. We will be voting in the fourth president under a new constitutional dispensation. In addition to the president’s post, Kenyans will be voting for five other seats that denote the county system of government.  Thus by March 5th, the following positions will be filled: President, Governor, Senator, Women Representatives from each county, Members of Parliament for the National Assembly and the County Ward representatives.
The campaigns have been a show of financial might for most of the contesters. With 8 presidential candidates, Kenyans may be said to be spoilt for choice. Some have dubbed this the two horse race while others talking about the tyranny of numbers but what they seem to be assuming is that most if not all of those in these political campaigns will be voting! Personally, I will not be voting in this election: I have never voted in any election. In 2007, I did not have a National ID, and at 2013, it was unfortunate that I lost my ID during the registration and the time to register elapsed before replacing it. I know there are many like us, young people who will not be voting. I know that there are those who will lose their IDs a week or so to the elections and may thus not vote as well. I am also certain that in the huge crowds during campaigns, it may not be surprising that say a quarter of those present will not be voting either!
What am I driving with this? So much emphasis has been put on campaigns, on opinion polls and we are forgetting the fundamental unit: the voter. We also ‘pretend’ to forget that the voting is a process and it requires one to know what needs to be done. I am certain that there are Kenyans who do not know what to expect during the voting day, right from the ballot papers to the six elective posts. I know, you may be wondering, I am concerned while I will not be voting anyway, so why bother? True, but I know I have a part to play pre, during and post the Election Day. I have realized, whether I will vote or not, I am an equal Kenyan and I have rights and responsibilities and my not voting does not make me less Kenyan.
My first role is a reminder, to my fellow Kenyans: we are voting through the secret ballot. This is to say that your choice for a candidate is your own and you are not to be coerced into choosing someone because the majority in that voting area is voting for that person. Elizabeth Noelle-Noumann in her famous “Spiral of Silence theory” acknowledges that for fear of isolation, people have a sixth sense to analyze the opinions of those around them and shape their decisions accordingly lest they are isolated. This then translates to people voting alongside tribal lines over issues. I would like to challenge you to look at whoever it is you are planning to vote for. Ask yourself, why do I want to have this person as my leader? Why do they want to get into power? Are they sincerely for Kenyans or for personal reasons? Let us not be clouded by what other people tell us about them but what do we personally feel about their leadership. I encourage us as young women be firm in our decisions and not to be afraid of isolation from our friends, our families because of who we are voting for; it is a secret ballot anyway.
My second role is to remind us young women take note when voting to ensure that we mark the candidates we are voting for within the specified requirements. There will be six (different coloured) ballot papers for the six elective positions. The Presidential Ballot paper will be White, the Governor's blue, Senator-Yellow, Member of Parliament-Green, Women Representative-Purple and the County Representatives–Beige. Each of the ballot papers have to be cast in their respective ballot boxes i.e. match each ballot paper with the corresponding box. One can only mark once on a ballot paper by the use of or X or even ones thumbprint. The worst thing would be to have wasted votes particularly where the competition is stiff as evident. Also, there will be Police Officers who will be observing any election misconduct particularly in relation to rigging, miscommunication to the yet to vote, those found campaigning during the election day as well as those who will be found inciting or even branded in the colours of particular parties.
In conclusion, Kenya was, has, and will be there after the March 4th Elections. Let us look at the big picture and encourage, persuade and inform our relatives and friends on this. Kenya is larger than our tribes, our once-in-every-five-years politics, selfish interests and campaigns. Kenya needs peace, now more than ever. Let us choose our words in discussing issues of the elections, our actions and let us exude confidence in IEBC. They are mandated to ensure that elections are free and fair. These are my views as unregistered Kenyan voter who despite not casting my vote, I will nonetheless ensure that the votes of the registered are cast in an informed, calm and peaceful environment and eventually accept the winner and defeat with honour. Again, Kenya is bigger than any of us, these fellow Kenyans, are my views as an unregistered voter!

[1] Nominated for the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Award 2013

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