In about two weeks, the country will be heading into one of the most crucial General Elections ever. These elections has been viewed by analysts as the most competitive one, considering the new elective posts that came with the adoption of a new constitutions. The positions being the senator, the governor, county representatives, women representatives, Members of parliament among others.
The presidential position alone has eight candidates lined up to face each other in the 4th March elections with each of them sure to succeed the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki who took office in 2007 after a disputed election that saw the country engulfed in violence, where thousands of people lost their lives and others displaced.
The presidential aspirants, the incumbent Prime Minister Raila Odinga, his two deputies Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi. Other aspirants are Peter Kenneth, James Ole Kiyiapi, Paul Muite, Abduba Dida and the only woman in the race Martha Karua are all lined up for the face off and are now busy running campaigns across the country. One of the aspirants, Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are facing charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on crimes against Humanity after they were linked to the post election violence the marred the country after the disputed 2007-2008 presidential elections.
Opinion polls carried out in recent days have indicated its going to be a tight race between the prime minister Raila Odinga under his Coalition of Reforms and Democracy (CORD) banner and his Deputy Uhuru Kenyatta under the JUBILEE alliance With some predicting a run off due to the high number of aspirants in the race.
Political temperatures have now hit fever pitch in a country with a number of 14 million registered voters. Campaigns are going on throughout the country.
Uhuru and Ruto presidential bids being received with mixed reactions by Kenyans and the international community with some country’s threatening to issue sanctions to Kenya if the two are elected to office. But during the first ever televised presidential debate on Monday 11th, Uhuru Kenyatta dismissed them saying the west should not be allowed to dictate to Kenyans on who to elect as their next president. Political Analyst in the country also have different views on the same.
With all eyes now set for the General elections in this new constitution, the countries media organisations came out to hold a presidential debate on February 11th where these aspirants were taken to task over several issues in the country. The second debate is scheduled for Monday 25th where the same presidential aspirants will be put to task to sell their aspirations for a better Kenya to the electorate.
As this is going on, the private sector, Kenyans themselves and even the government have launched peace campaigns to ensure the country does not go into violence. Leaders campaigning have been urged to preach peace and avoid inciting their supporters. The international community has also urged Kenyans to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner during the elections.
The body mandated to oversee these elections, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) also plays a very crucial role during the elections. Last week, the commission made a very promising announcement that Kenyans will start getting the results of the March 4 General elections one-and-a-half hours after voting closes at 5 p.m. The commission says the presidential results will be the first to be announced before those of the other five elective posts.
Having adopted an electronic Results transmission system which has successfully worked in other African countries, the Ahmed Isack led commission should now be working to ensure that we have a smooth transition to the next government.
According to the commission, this electronic system will make it possible for the vote count to be relayed directly from polling stations to three tallying centres located at the constituency, county and national level. Being the first time this system is being used in the country should make sure it sticks to its words to avoid raising tensions. The last thing Kenyans want now is to doubt the IEBC credibility, that is why it should do all it can to assure Kenyans that all will be well.
Meanwhile, both the Kenyan electorate and leaders should ensure that they preach and maintain peace come the election,
By Nixon Kanali, Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, Nairobi