Harambees and Elections

Posted by on 22nd December 2011

Categories:   Uncategorized

Talking about the “harambee ban” on political aspirants Isaack Hassan, the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), recently stated, “politicians and aspirants for political posts have always used fund-drives and harambees to entice voters and to influence their manner of voting.”

Have you ever wondered how much of a political aspirants campaign budget is allocated to fund raisers and harambees? And how this affects the county’s elections and their outcomes? Harambees to raise funds for personal and public projects such as school fees, rehabilitating hospitals or building schools are a common occurrence. And while harambees started out from a well-intentioned place for well-intentioned causes, over the years harambees and fund-raisers have morphed into a powerful political tool.

The influence that harambee contributions by political aspirants have on the outcome of elections cannot be underestimated. Though it doesn’t always work there is almost a tacit agreement that the more money a political aspirant gives to both personal and public harambee projects the more political influence they gain, and the more chance they have of influencing the vote. So though the act of contributing to harambees by political aspirants may not qualify as outright vote buying it definitely falls somewhere along vote buying continuum. The practice undermines the electoral process, and leads to the prioritisation the aspirants the wealth over their vision and leadership.

Citing Article 26 (1) of the Elections Act the Chairperson of the IEBC, Isaack Hassan, put those running for elected positions in the upcoming 2012 election on notice about their responsibility to stop the practice of using harambees and fund-raisers to amass political influence.

Article 26 of the Act prohibits political candidates from directly or indirectly participating in any manner in any public fund raising or harambee within the 8 months preceding a general election or during an election period. The section also states that any political aspirant doing so shall be disqualified from contesting in the election or during that election year or election period. Given the election date still stands at 14th August 2012 and barring any changes the 8-month “harambee ban” began on 14th December.

No doubt there will be enforcement issues however the Chairperson of the IEBC has indicated that video recording can be used as evidence to disqualify a candidate if they act in contravention on the law. The IEBC is also in the process of setting up an Electoral Code on Conduct and a committee to ensure it is enforced.

The “harambee ban” is definitely a welcome move in the electoral reform process but is it enough to stop the practice, your thoughts?


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