We could have avoided election debacle by sitting down to talk

Maina Kiai by Maina Kiai
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If the regime thought that forcing what was already a flawed, tainted and illegal election would lead to credibility and legitimacy, then Thursday’s “selection” has backfired badly. 

The turnout across the country was incredibly bad, even in stalwart Jubilee zones. It would have been simpler, better, less expensive and less divisive to simply put off the rerun for three to six months, undertake deep and credible election reforms in that time that would be transparent and credible for all concerned.

For years, we have been told that the gap between votes cast for the presidency and that for Governors and MCAs was because hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were only interested in the presidential vote. 

If that were true, then we would have had queues even bigger this week than in August. But that did not happen. 

With numerous polling stations (where voting occurred unhindered) getting less than 20 percent turnout, it is clear that Kenyans voted with their feet and stayed home.

POLITICAL CRISIS

But this is not something to gloat about or to praise. If anything, this rerun has shown, once again, that we have a serious political crisis that we need to address sooner rather than later. 

And that crisis revolves around the exclusion of communities, a winner-take-all election system, excessive police brutality, and the arrogance of power.

I am still befuddled how the Supreme Court could not raise a quorum to decide a case that could have averted the expression of this crisis. While it made a historic decision in September by insisting on respect for the Constitution in matters electoral, it made history on Wednesday by not being able to sit even after it had set a hearing date and times.

We need to interrogate what really happened and soon, or the rumour mills will run wild, and increase the existing tensions. 

And even the highly irregular gazetting of a holiday on the day before elections is suspect given that that has never happened before, even when we had six elections to contend with. 

MISCHIEF

It is easy to read mischief and the Chief Justice would be well advised to get to the bottom of this soon. 

The road ahead seems murkier than before. It is clear that Jubilee wanted the rerun in order to swear in Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as soon as possible, and so that he could presumably dialogue as a sitting President. 

But in the process, he has made the big half of Kenya discontented with the regime, even angrier and more disillusioned. That is not the way a divided country can be governed.

He could, of course, as he is wont to do, decide to rely on force and intimidation, trying to turn himself into what his supporters call a benevolent dictator. 

But dictators are rarely benevolent but to those who support them. So that would mean further isolating and harming the big half of Kenya that would resist and reject any attempts to take us back to the bad old days of the Moi and Kenyatta regime.

POWERS

And these supporters better be careful what they wish for, as any successor to Mr Kenyatta would inherit these powers and woe unto them if the successor decides to turn against them!

Sober and open minds have been in short supply in recent months, minds that can accept that Kenya is bigger than one or two ethnic groups that make up barely a third of the country’s population. 

We could have averted all this confusion and tension had Mr Kenyatta — as the one holding state office — quickly convened a meeting with the opposition to discuss ways to make the election credible, and further how to deal with the deep divisions, suspicions and feelings of exclusion that obtain within the big half of Kenya.

CREDIBLE

There is no loss of pride or position to accept systems and structures that are transparent, fair and credible. Unless of course these show you up, which perhaps explains the intransigence and refusal to dialogue.

It is important to remember some history. In November 2010, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak’s party “won” 83 percent of the parliamentary seats. Barely three months later, in February 2011, Mubarak was swept out of office by popular demand.

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