Politics seems to be our national obsession. Elections are both keenly contested, and keenly discussed. And why not? Our country’s politics is both interesting and complex, also the next election is likely to be one the most fiercely fought and most unpredictable political battles yet, so why not? From every walk of life, there are probably several people that could give exhaustive descriptions of candidates character, and personality and give lengthy analysis/prediction of the potential candidates for different positions, their odds at winning, the intricacies of various political alliances, shifting loyalties and interesting titbits of political gossip.
In politics personality matters, so the focus on the type of politics described above is almost intuitive and plays an important part in exposing inconsistencies and hypocrisies in politicians’ character. Ultimately only a few elected representatives are involved in the process of decision making so it is right that the press, and public devote some of their attention to the personalities and character of politicians as revealed by such politics, as the character of politicians undoubtedly affects the country’s governance.
However I wonder whether our concentration on this side of politics i.e. the personality ‘gossipy’ side, is to the detriment of our focus on policy. While many would find it easy to postulate on the intrigues of politics i.e. whose who, whose in, whose out it and generally muck rake, it is much harder to find a person who could articulate any political candidates stance on the policy issues that affects their day to day lives.
For example take inflation the country’s double-digit inflation has significantly raised the cost of the living for all Kenyans. Though there have been reports that inflation is on the decline, there has been little reflection of this in consumer goods. The cost of living is still as high as ever. Yet are we, the public, able to articulate any of the political candidate’s policy stances on reducing inflationary pressure? Are we concerned about whether or not candidates for electoral office have articulated a coherent policy on reduction of the cost of living as part of their campaign process?
In other priority areas i.e. tackling corruption, taxation, education, healthcare, rising income inequality, equitable distribution of resources, ethnic polarization – how many of us can articulate with clarity the policy positions of any of the candidates running for office. When I talk about articulating a candidate’s position on any of these policy priorities, I do not mean vague promises and empty rhetoric that the electorate has heard repeated over and over i.e. ‘I will create jobs’, or “I will bring development” or “I am committed to ending corruption.” What I mean is a road map to deal with these problems or are we comfortable with a state where our politicians are much better known then their policies? Hopefully a shift in focus from ‘politics’ to policy make us vote wiser.