Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) invoked Article 88 (4)(i) of the Constitution that allows them to regulate the amount of money that may be spent by or on behalf of a candidate or party in respect of any election through a Gazette notice last week. The announcement was made in good faith and with the view of creating, “…equal opportunity for eligible persons to compete in elections by not allowing money or resources to be a key determinant of the outcome” their statement read, only it does the opposite.
For starters the capping of the expenditure’s main goal is to discourage the corruption that elected officials engage in solely to secure their positions in the next election. In light of this argument, wouldn’t it have been prudent to cap the expenditure (at least for candidates) at half the total amount they earn for the entire period they are serving?
For example if an MP earns about Ksh. 1 million per month, then it follows that this MP makes Ksh 12 Million per year and therefore Ksh. 60 Million after his term. Assuming he or she is so frugal and was spending only half of his or her salary, then the MP can honestly (and this is quite a stretch) afford only Ksh. 30 million to run his or her campaign at the end of his term. In any case, does it mean if one doesn’t have money they should not seek a legislative post?
Accordingly, why should any candidate invest Ksh.432 million to vie for Nairobi’s gubernatorial position? Are Kenyans supposed to elect businessmen or servants? Indeed such a candidate will spend the better part of his term recovering the money he used during campaign at the expense of the county’s development agenda. Having said that, it is important to reiterate that what IEBC is trying to do despite the gaping challenges is quite necessary considering the place of money in Kenyan politics; more so during the campaign period. More often than not the poor leadership on display is usually because the best candidate was arm-twisted out of the ticket during party elections because they didn’t have enough money to impress the party.
The 2013 campaigns saw parties cashing in big on candidates hoping to get nominations. Majority parties were charging Ksh. 1 million for candidates challenging party flag bearer, Ksh. 300,000 and Ksh. 200,000 for Governors, Senators and MPs respectively. Interestingly, smaller yet visible parties also made a killing from the defectors who claimed they were rigged out of nomination from the bigger parties.
Furthermore cases of politicians facing blackmail from anonymous sources or companies that had contributed generously with the hope of favorable policies once the candidate or their party forms government have been rampant, especially after the 2013 elections. How does IEBC propose to curb these challenges? Wouldn’t it have been more effective to emphasize disclosing of the sources of contribution?
Going by the media reports about Jubilee, CORD and KANU’s lavish spending during the Malindi and Kericho by-elections how could a Ksh.2 million fine act as a deterrent for people wealthy enough to spend over a Billion in a single by-election? They will flout these rules with impunity and pay it off from their pocket change.
The negative role of money in Kenyan politics comes at a huge cost. It’s in very rare occasions that the electorate shamed the party and voted for the best candidate running on a smaller unknown party after unfairly losing nomination in their original party. This happens a lot with parties that command regional numbers, where a nomination is as good as winning the elections. That’s one of the reasons why politicians will pay an arm and leg to get the nominations. And that is why the electorate and particularly the youth and women must remain watchful as we approach the campaign season.
The youth who are most prone to bribery during electioneering period must decide if the dirty money is worth their future. Also, see the show of might by candidates for what it is; a gimmick. The argument that a rich candidate will not be corrupt is null and void. If the wealth was acquired irregularly then the reputation precedes him or her, period!
As the campaign season nears, politicians will use every trick in the book to get our vote. A bribe can buy you short-lived happiness but poor leadership is capable of giving us a lifetime of horror. We’re approaching a crucial point in the election cycle and we can get leaders of integrity if we practice integrity!