Voter Apathy A National Disaster In The Making

The abject apathy bedeviling the ongoing mass voter registration by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will spell doom to political careers of many politicians in the country but also trouble to the country’s democratic future.

Wafula Chebukati-IEBC CHAIR

The persistent low registration of the voters in most of the country where the daily targets by the IEBC are not being met in the exercise that is entering its third week despite the aggressive campaigns mounted by the country’s top political leaders led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto means there is something seriously wrong.

The opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetangula, Kalonzo Musyoka and their lieutenants have not been left out in the aggressive campaign across the country to urge the more than 9.1 million Kenyans with Identity Cards but are not registered as voters.

This state of affairs clearly demands that these leaders and thousands of others who are aspiring for elective posts at the August 2017 general elections must immediately change tuck and instead of voter registration rallies, if they continue then IEBC clerks must be there with sufficient materials to register voters but also go further to execute massive door to door registration campaigns.

Otherwise the high level of apathy to registering is sending a very powerful and serious signal to the political leaders in this country and also the IEBC itself – that there is something wrong and the people are not happy.

At the first results posted by the IEBC it was only three regions that had tried to meet the IEBC daily targets and that Central and Rift Valley regions whose performance was mostly triggered by what is popularly known as the Raila Odinga phobia – hence a fixation to use the votes’ numerical strength to lock him out of State House.

The leading was North Eastern Kenya whose targeted daily voter registration levels were low at less than 30, 000, but the turnout was more than 90 per cent whereas the apathy hit hard the former Western and Coast provinces whose huge population levels are a highly critical factor in the forthcoming general elections.

The biggest problem afflicting millions of Kenyans in every corner of the country is the worst lowest levels of money circulation in the country’s economy that the country has never experienced since independence. That is compounded by the ever skyrocketing prices of the essential consumer commodities like Maize flour, cooking oil, Petroleum products, salt, and sugar among many others.

Pushed to extreme levels of poverty, without food to keep them alive, worse constantly threatened with the worsening hunger taking a stranglehold on these millions faced with drought, therefore not even a drop of water – for them the priority is not to register as voters, but to survive to be able to see the next day.

Indeed it must not be forgotten that a huge percentage of this state of affairs is being presided over by a government whose top employees holding powerful positions. They are month after month exposed to have been the architects and executers of mega multi-billion shillings looting scandals when the ordinary Kenyan cannot afford even five shillings to buy a match box.

The situation is made no better when the head of that government President Kenyatta has the audacity to go public to tell a starving nation that he and his Jubilee kingpins in power are enjoying chunks of juicy roasted meat while the opposition and the rest of Kenyans are starving and salivating for their Nyama Choma courtesy of the starving tax payers’ money.

This state of affairs is holding the country in a stranglehold from which Kenyans that are desperate to escape from according to media reports coming from all over the country, Kenyans blame politicians for lack of morale to register as voters.

Indeed with some citing failure to implement development projects, fear of recurrence of post-election violence and the greed by leaders once elected disappear from their constituents for nearly five years until when elections are around the corner to resurface as reasons behind voter apathy.

Some opposition leaders also accused the government of employing tricks such as slow issuance of national identity cards and failure of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits to lock people in their political backyards out of the August 8 General Election.

The situation being so bad that Chiefs and their Assistants who are public servants expected to deliver the ID cards to the owners in their areas of jurisdiction are instead hoarding them in their houses and offices, some even going to the extend of having the audacity to demand for bribes in exchange of the free document.

Faced with this kind of situation an ordinary Kenya who is challenged to the extreme to merely survive, what reason will make him or her to bother going for that ID card, braving the hot sun or rain to go and register as a voter?

It has emerged that Political parties’ leaders suspended membership recruitment into their outfits to focus on voter listing amid poor turnout for the mass registration campaign, which has entered its third week.

Before flying to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday January 28th, 2014, President Kenyatta said the Jubilee Party membership drive will resume after the voter listing campaign ends on February 14.

While in his own home county of Kiambu he was widely quoted as saying: “We have decided to take a break and go slow on the recruitment of members to allow our supporters time to register as voters first before the closure of the IEBC registration next month.” There were fears that Jubilee recruitment was being given preference by aspirants, with some counties in central Kenya recording low numbers of voter registration.

IEBC statistics show that only 19,071 people (51 per cent) registered in Nyeri County in the first week out of the weekly target of 37,650 while Tharaka-Nithi had 15,740 (55 per cent) out of 28,824.

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga also since suspended the party’s nationwide recruitment to concentrate on voter registration. He followed up a memo that he had issued on Saturday January 28th, 2017 by convening an ODM leaders’ meeting. It was held at Odino, Ken Gen in Nyakach Constituency, where he appeared to lay blame squarely on local governors over low voter registration in his Nyanza stronghold.

“Our national get-out-the-voters must roll out in full swing without any distractions. Any leaders or aspirants who go against this directive will be considered to be working directly against the interests of the party,” Odinga was quoted as saying.

In Odinga’s home county of Siaya, only 13,171 (43 per cent) people out of the IEBC’s weekly target of 30,986 had registered, while in Nyamira, only 7,517 out of 21,252 enlisted to vote.

The apathy which is already sending alarms across the country’s political divide has not spared Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi who has passionately appealed to residents of western Kenya to register without asking for handouts – the region holds the country’s second leading population figures.

The former Vice-President also warned Jubilee against turning the President’s directive for a chiefs’ letters to suffice for ID applications into a conduit to recruit foreigners and refugees as voters – especially from neighbouring Uganda.

He was widely quoted as saying: “If an aspirant knows a chief is holding onto IDs, they should take the list and inform the owners to pick them. If chiefs are uncooperative, frog march them to deliver IDs to owners.”

In his Vihiga County, only 11,162 people (33 per cent) out of IEBC weekly target of 34,332 had registered in the first week.

The ANC leader said it was suspicious that the Registrar of Persons officers in the region had suddenly been all sent on leave without replacements. “There is much more to this than normal leave by these officers because those seeking to register for IDs can no longer do so”, he pointed out.

It is from this pathetic state of affairs that inevitably the consequences of poor or low voter turnout for registration will negatively impact on the general elections as well whose turn out to vote might be worse which lead to equally disastrous results right from the Presidential tally all the way to that of Members of the County Assemblies.

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