An Overview of the 2017 General Election

Brenda Wambui
6 June ,2017

We have 62 more days before our election on August 8th 2017. We are in the middle of campaign season, which started on 28th May and is set to end on 5th August 2017. It’s a great time to discuss the players in this election.

Kenya is always in-between elections. Unless something changes, the next five years will probably go like this: This year, we’ll have the election. In 2018 we’ll have jostling for positions, appointments to institutions and victory tours/homecoming parties. In 2019 we’ll have a major scandal unearthed since the winning guys will want to take back from us all the money they spent. We’ll spend the remainder of that time arguing about said scandal. In 2020, people will get fired and reshuffled. Some of the projects proposed by the winning party may or may not get started then.

Later in the year, we may unearth another major scandal, you know, to finance the 2022 election. 2021 will get here, and we’ll officially be in campaign mode once again. We’ll definitely hear of more scandals then, because of the upcoming elections. Excuses will also be made as to why the government of the day did not perform. 2022 will then get here, and we’ll have yet another election. This is likely to happen unless we interrupt this cycle, and I believe the way to do this is through information, which should ideally change our voting/citizen behaviour.

The first key party in this election is we the voters. The Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has a total of 19.68 million registered voters, up from 14.38 million in 2013. They had two phases of voter registration for the upcoming election, but fell short of their target. They only managed to register 3.78 million new voters, missing both their lower and upper targets, which were 4 million and 6.1 million respectively. These targets are arrived at by looking at the number of IDs issued. As at 30th November 2016, we had 28,061,236 people holding IDs. This means that the percentage of people registered to vote is 70.16% of the eligible voting population.

However, as the IEBC chairperson said, these are not the final figures since they had yet to clean up and verify the registered voters. This clean up usually involves the delisting of dead persons, and the removal of duplicates. The preliminary register will be ready 40 days to the election. This should be the 29th of June 2017. In this election, prisoners will be able to vote because of a Supreme Court directive. The number of prisoners eligible to vote was 19,497, though only 4,094 registered.

The Kenyan diaspora was also registered to vote from the 20th of February to the 6th of March 2017. However, only the people living in Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa were registered for this election. These people were registered at The Kenyan Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates in those countries. 1,521 people registered in those countries. However, this is a drop in the ocean, considering that the Kenyan diaspora is estimated to have at least 3 million people.

The second key party is the candidates. The IEBC cleared 8 presidential candidates to run for office this year. These are Japheth Kavinga, Michael Wainaina, Joseph Nyagah, Cyrus Jirongo, Abduba Dida, Ekuru Aukot, Raila Odinga and the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta. On the 28th and the 29th of May 2017, they cleared Senatorial and Presidential candidates. On the 30th and 31st of May, they cleared candidates seeking to be County Woman Representatives to the National Assembly. Candidates vying to be Members of County Assemblies were cleared on the 28th, 29th and 30th of May. On the 1st and 2nd of June, they cleared gubernatorial candidates, as well as people vying to become Members of the National Assembly. The final number of candidates that have been cleared is yet to be released though.

Before this clearance exercise began, we had 16,364 candidates. Out of those, 12,060 wanted to vie for MCA. MCAs represent wards, and we have 1,450 of them in Kenya. That’s an average of 8 candidates per ward. The remainder are battling it out for 47 senatorial seats, 47 gubernatorial seats, 47 county woman representative to the National Assembly Seats, and 290 constituency seats at the National Assembly. This election, we have imposed campaign spending limits. Presidential candidates can spend up to KES 5.2 billion, while gubernatorial, senatorial and woman representative candidates can spend up to KES 432 million. Candidates for member of National Assembly can spend up to KES 33.4 million, while MCA candidates can spend up to KES 10.3 million.

The last key party is the IEBC – the body conducting the election. It is an independent body charged with conducting free, fair and transparent elections. It has 7 commissioners, and is chaired by Wafula Chebukati. They are tasked with supervising elections and ensuring they meet all legal expectations, registering voters and maintaining the voter registry, setting boundaries within the country, educating voters, and announcing election results. Three of the commissioners are women and the rest are male, meeting the gender two thirds rule. It is also regionally balanced, unlike most of our public institutions. What remains to be seen is whether they will conduct a free and fair election.

At stake, of course, is the future of our country. It is up to us as citizens, assisted by the media and civil society, to hold the other parties accountable to ensure that we have a free and fair election.

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