In developed democracies, one popular strategy of rigging an election is vote suppression. Especially in areas populated by minorities – some of whom might not be well educated or well informed to understand what is going on. In vote suppression, popular tactics include delays in starting the elections, machine failures, confusion on the exact polling stations to be used, confusion on the exact polling end time et cetera. This will result into long queues -the elderly and pregnant women giving up and going home and the disenfranchisement of everyone else who is still in the queues at poll end time. But the good thing is that today, most of these democracies have federal courts on standby to take care of such inconsistencies in real time.
When it comes to Party primaries, one great confusion is whether the primary is open, closed or semi-closed. In open primary, every voter in that constituency, as long as they are registered as voters with the electoral body, are allowed to vote in whichever primary. In closed primary, only those registered with the party and are registered voters are allowed to participate. In semi-closed, those registered as voters and might not have necessarily registered as party members -but by default appear to be aligned to that party, are allowed to participate.
Now, in Kenya -by law, only one type of Party primary is allowed – closed primary. Strictly for party members.
A look back at how the primaries by both Jubilee and NASA affiliate parties were conducted, we can safely conclude that by design, they were never free nor fair nor credible. Its only after complains that they tried to save face by reversing some of the ‘results’.
That aside for now, we have to appreciate that our political parties have come a long way – and some of the challenges they experienced at the primaries were genuine – for instance, Political Party funds not being released to them for adequate preparation. But that cannot in anyway be used to justify the bribery, rigging and to some extent intimidation experienced.
What Kenyans need to celebrate as an outcome of the primaries, is how Wanjiku is evolving. A number of theories that have remained true for quite sometime were debunked by Wanjiku at the Primaries.
- That for you to win a Primary you MUST have money.
Quite a number of examples -across the divide- are evident. From sukuma wiki vendors who trounced big business men in MCA position, to night guards and young jobless but brilliant youth who won with a landslide. The ground is steadily shifting and we are getting to that point where it won’t always be about the big money and the power to bribe – but the ability to connect and inspire Wanjiku.
- That one always votes along tribal lines.
We witnessed instances of individuals from minority tribes within a Constituency being voted in by the majority tribe. Point in case is a Luhya being voted largely by the Kalenjin in Uasin Gishu County among many other cases.
- That Wanjiku at the grassroots is not well informed.
Participants at the party primaries were largely Wanjiku at the grassroots. And believe me, some of them know how the CDF fund operates more than that urban middle class person that the society has branded as ‘informed’. In Politics, the level of education, or social status doesn’t necessarily translate into information. You can have both but still remain the most ignorant human species politically on planet earth. (How else can you explain a sophisticated, well educated middle class who doesn’t see the need to participate in an election?) So it is a lie to always equate Wanjiku and the less educated academically as the ignorant ones. And they proved that in the primaries. They are well aware of what is happening and are ready and confident to play their part. Although we have to agree that in terms of information, the entire public needs to up their game, not just wanjiku at the village.
- That elites don’t participate in Politics.
The elites have investment in major cities. They invest in stocks and other spaces. They know too well how politics will ultimately influence their businesses. And therefore, they will actively participate in Political processes – or even try to influence the processes to their advantage. The problem is that they behave more or less like the politicians themselves -since they are doing it all for profit. The only difference is that they might not be in the limelight.
PS- Let’s not confuse socialites with elites. Elites are elites, and socialites are socialites.
These are just but a few lessons one could pick from the party primaries. But ultimately, one could point out that Wanjiku is looking out for that leader who has been consistent. That even before presenting themselves as political aspirants, they had already been tried and tested at community level. And that is why some of those who only showed up for the very first time (even before introducing themselves) with nice posters and a pretext to be well moneyed were thoroughly beaten at the ballot.
The tried and tested community leader also explains why in August, so many independent candidates might find themselves in Parliament – those who were rigged out at party primaries of course.