Entries from March 1st, 2013

Things to know for Election Day

Posted by on 1st March 2013

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3 days to the elections on March 4th, the voting materials including ballot boxes are now in the country. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) staff had been employed and trained in readiness for the elections. The mock elections have been conducted. One assumes that the most of the kinks have been ironed out as the IEBC has assured voters that they are technically prepared election and the government will providing technical support where needed.

So what do you the voter need to know for the actual date?

Find your polling location:  To avoid going to the wrong location visit the Find Your Polling Station App at http://vote.iebc.or.ke and find out/confirm where you will be voting. Enter your ID number in the dialogue box to find your polling location.

Know what to bring to the polls. Voters will be required to show photo ID before casting their ballot. In this election voters will be required to verifying their identity using the same identification document that they used during voter registration i.e. if you used your passport to register you will be required to bring your passport with you if you used your ID card you will be required to use this.

Leave political party items at home: Voters are asked not to wear political party clothing or paraphernalia to the polling place on Election Day.  Election officials may ask voters to remove or cover up political items, or to leave the polling place if they are judged to be electioneering or creating a disturbance.

Get in line before the polls close: While the IEBC has agreed to extend the voting period on the day if needed based on their assessment of the mocking voting, only voters in the queue and in the polling station at 5 p.m. will be allowed to vote. New entrants will not be allowed into the polling station after 5 p.m.

Know your voting: rights: Some activists are anticipating voter intimidation attempts at the polls tomorrow. It’s important to know your rights in preparation for such a situation. If you experience any form of intimidation or suppression tomorrow, you can report it an IEBC poll worker on site, or contact the IEBC at the IEBC Election Hotline Numbers: 0711035606 and 0711035616. The hotlines will also be open during the tallying period.

It is also worth noting that the Elections Act and Regulations makes it an offence for a voter “to accept or take food, drink, refreshments, money, ticket or adopt a means or device of procuring them” if such is meant to influence the voter’s support.

Time off to vote: the voting day Monday 4 will be a public holiday and for essential workers note that Article 70 of Election Act requires “Every employer shall, on polling day, allow a voter in his employ a reasonable period for voting, and no employer shall make any deduction from the pay or other remuneration of any such voter or impose upon or exact from them any penalty by reason of his absence during such period.”

 

Will the Presidential Debates Influence How You Vote?

Posted by on 25th February 2013

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Unlike other democracies presidential debates are not central our democratic process. However in a few minutes, Kenya’s 8 presidential candidates will take part in the country’s final debate in a series of two presidential debates. After an initial refusal to be present at the debate it turns out the Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta will attend after all (see story here).

The debate set to begin at 7.00pm, and like the first debate it will be held at Brookhouse School and will be televised across 8 television stations and 32 radio stations with national coverage. Google will be live streaming the debate at http://www.youtube.com/user/electionskenya.

According to an Ipsos Synovate poll 93% percent of registered voters feel the presidential debates are beneficial. But will the debate influence voting patterns?

After the last debate I am both sceptical but curious, like every other Kenyan I am more used to political candidates, presidential candidates included, making sweeping promises and emotive remarks in front large and sometimes rowdy crowds. The last debate seemed to go somewhat the same way at least as far as sweeping promises, accusations and counter accusations are concerned.

One assumes however that for the second round all candidates have been thoroughly prepared, and have polished up on the points of weakness witnessed in the first debate, and will probably stick to the message in their manifestos and that for the most part one candidate’s argument will be immediately countered by the others.

Or worst case scenario, given that this is the final debate it could devolve into loud name-calling, wild accusations and incoherent claims of the flip-floppery. Whatever the case I hope there will be some fact checking going on.

The pivotal question remains will the debate change the voters’ minds about which candidate to vote for? After all the debate is happening quite late in the electoral process, a vast majority of voters have probably already decided who their Presidential candidate is. Plus the debate is not the only thing that voters are exposed to, nor are the ‘issues’ usually the primary motivating factor for the way Kenyans vote. Will the debate change all this?

The themes for today’s debate are land and governance. It will be interesting to see if and how the moderators raise questions on the ICC case and the threat of sanctions, particularly given the issues raised about the last debate by presidential candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta’s, team. It also will be interesting to see what governance issues will be raised with regards to the other candidates or if the letter will have any impact at all.

In any event we’ll be watching.

Five Things to do before the Election

Posted by on 22nd February 2013

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Confirm that you are actually registered to vote. Even though you have registered it is definitely worth confirm that you are actually registered to vote, so if there any problems with your registration you can sort these out before turning up at the polling station on March 4th, this can be done at on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission webpage http://vote.iebc.or.ke/ click on the “confirm registration” tab and follow the instructions.

Find your polling station on the same link above IEBC has a ‘Find a Polling Station’ tool that allows voters to find their nearest polling station via Google maps, make sure that their polling place is correct.

Get to know the candidates and the position they are vying for.  By this point campaign exhaustion has probably set in the and your probably tired of hearing the Presidential candidates bicker and back and forth, throw insults and make accusations against each other.  However while most of us are aware of who is running for President, Senator and Governor, (their campaigns have been more out there) how much do we really know about the candidates running for Member of Parliament, or Ward Representative?

With devolution these representatives matter a great deal and are likely to be making decisions that influence our lives on a daily basis more than we imagine. And it maybe is easy to automatically throw your support behind your chosen Presidential candidates party simply because you’re familiar the candidate or the party but that means that you will be choosing your candidates blindly. In fact it is probably the populations general lack knowledge of who is running for the seats that has driven some of the parties to ask for a ‘six piece vote’.

It is definitely worthwhile to take the time to research every candidate from every party to see what they stand and what they propose to do for you. To find out who the aspirants for various seats and their job descriptions are here http://info.mzalendo.com

Study the issuesThough it may seem so, elections are not just about candidates they are about issues. Apart from voting a particular candidate we are also voting particular values, constitutional implementation, taxation, education, health, infrastructure, employment etc. The issues are probably the most confusing part the elections: in campaign speeches politicians seem to make wide sweeping non-specific promises which we have heard before, and the party manifestos seem quite similar and misleading with no explanation of how these grand promises will be brought into fruition, or how they will be paid for. It would be interesting if on the 25th February Presidential debate the candidates be asked to explains their propositions in simple language, lay out pros and cons for some of the issues, and how they plan to fund these propositions.

Make a plan to actually turn up to vote

On Voter Education

Posted by on 14th February 2013

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According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) website, “The Commission is responsible … voter education

On 3rd February the IEBC launched a voter education drive. The purpose of this particular drive is to prepare Kenyans in case of a presidential runoff. However one wonders if Kenyans are adequately prepared, not just for a potential, but for the upcoming election considering 87% of Kenyan’s still believe that voting will take place electronically!

“Voter education officially begins today [3rd February] across the country. The forums will be held in each County Assembly Ward from 10 am. Kenyans are encouraged to confirm details of the specific venues for the meetings at the Constituency Elections Coordinators office. It is important to attend the forums as they will explain what to expect on March 4th…Voters in selected county assembly wards will go through a mock election at the end of this month, the culmination of a voter education effort whose impact might be undermined by the ongoing political campaigns.”

On 12th February the  announced that yet the start of another voter education drive was being launched:

The Justice Ministry, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Transition Authority and religious leaders came together to spearhead the programme in the race against time to ensure Kenyans learn a lot about the elections, which are 19 days away.” The drive was launched “amid fears that poor voter preparedness could impact negatively on the coming elections”

The wisdom of kicking off voter education drives a month to the election is questionable. Given that essence the Commission will be conducting voter education at the same time that politicians are carrying out their campaigns. And the IEBC recognizes the difficulty that it will face in its attempt to hold voter education during the campaigns.

James Oswago the CEO of the IEBC is quoted as stating. “The exercise will run throughout the month despite the political campaigns. We are not competing with politicians. We are talking to voters at the ward level on a weekly basis.”

If 87% of Kenyans still be believe that voting will take place electronically one can only guess at what other misinformation is floating around. And this is before one even factors in that the in the next election we will be voting for the president, the entire Senate, 290 members of National Assembly women’s representatives. At the same time we will be voting in new county level governments and this will all happen in one day. The ballot papers are likely to be quite complex, and the need for civic and voter education far greater than usual. So why leave it so late?

Could this have something to do with the fact that only 121 million shillings of the current budget was allocated to the IEBC for voter education? Or maybe voter education has not been that much of a priority.

Donors did contribute 1.5 billion shillings but the governments allocation for voter education in what is the first of a very complicated election is somewhat telling of where in the list priorities the government holds voter education.

 

On Lower Salaries for State Officers

Posted by on 8th February 2013

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The statistics on the earnings of Kenyan MPs is well known, and leads to the fact that they are among the highest paid in the world. In fact the subject of the MPs salaries is a sore one for many Kenyans. First, because MPs salary is high relative to the country’s/people’s economic situation. How do MPs earn as much as they do given the countries statistics on poverty, income inequality, and unemployment, seriously can we afford our MPs?

The second issue with MPs’ salary is that every Parliament increases the salary for the sitting members. For instance the 10th Parliament raised their salaries and benefits several times during their term, despite numerous protests from taxpayers, and at the end of their term attempted to pass a bill that would have allowed them an exorbitant send off package.

All this happened in the wake of the 2010 constitution which removed from the mandate of the parliament the setting of salaries for State officers and placed this responsibility in the hands of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC). MPs blatantly ignored the protestations of the SRC and for a while it seemed that the SRC would suffer the same fate as some of the other independent commissions i.e. being sidelined by parliament.

As things stand the 10th Parliament has been dissolved and this seems to have created space for the SRC to act on what many Kenyans have known, that:

“The current wage bill is neither affordable nor sustainable. The country has far surpassed the fiscal and economic benchmarks such as fiscal sustainability,” SRC chairperson Sarah Serem.

In response to the ‘un-sustainability’ and ‘un-affordability’ of the current wage bill the SRC has made the following proposition: Lower the salaries of State Officers.

“The next President’s salary and allowance has been capped at a maximum Sh1.7 million a month, down from the current Sh2 million. The deputy president will earn between Sh1,115,625 and Sh1,487,500, down from Sh1.9 million while MPs and senators will take home between Sh555,696 and Sh740,927, down from the current Sh851,000. The figures include all allowances paid to the affected state officers.”

While the move to lower the salaries of State officers is laudable but is it enough?

Take for instance that MPs salaries may be cut down to Sh. 555, 696 down from Sh. 851,000 sounds like a grand saving. Until you crunch the numbers the last parliament had 210 members who all earned Sh851,000 in the new parliament there will be 300+ members (MPs, Women Reps,+ nominated members) each earning Sh555, 696 the saving is just more than 1 million shillings i.e. not that great.

Then include the salaries for governors and senators, wage expenses that didn’t exist before, and  it appears that not much of a saving will be made. So while each individual re-elected MP may feel the effect of a lower salary, the effect of the lower salaries for State Officers on the tax payer seems negligible. Do salaries of State officers need to lower still?

The SRC say that the new wage cuts will result in savings of Sh500 million but the fact is the wage bill will remain pretty high so hopefully this is just the beginning of downward reviews of salaries of high ranking state officers. It should be noted that will the move by the SRC is certainly one in the right direction, it could all be undone. The new parliament will have to approve the SRC proposals, and if past history is any indication it is not good, the last parliament’s first order of business was to raise their salaries.

Be careful who you vote for because you will be paying their salary, even one better maybe we should be asking those running what their plan for the salaries of state officers is?

 

We Will See Final Party Lists Any Time Soon?

Posted by on 5th February 2013

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Saying that the political party primaries were marred by irregularities would be an understatement. We have seen some political parties completely ignore the results of the party primaries and resort to a system of direct nominations citing the need for regional balance. Of course this begs the question, what was the reason for the party primaries in the first place, why not just have direct nominations?

Political parties have included the names of incumbents who lost in the primaries in their list of direct nominees to parliament, much to the disdain and annoyance of voters who signaled their disapproval of certain candidates by choosing to vote them out. Women aspirants faced considerable harassment during the primaries without a word from party leadership, and some of those who won were promptly pushed aside by parties in favor of male candidates.

There have seen 11th hour defections from aspirants who lost the primaries in their initial party of choice. In some instances political parties issued multiple nomination certificates to different aspirants and those are just the irregularities that were made public. In short the party primaries have been a shambles, so much so that the treasury has said in the next elections, 2017, it will fund the IEBC to carry out the political party primaries.

According to Finance Minister Njeru Githae “It is now clear that the Treasury must take a proactive stand on this issue. It is no longer a party issue. Our political parties do not have the management capacity to conduct free, fair and credible elections,” a damning indictment to political parties.

Internal party politics means it could be a while before we see the final party lists. Even though the IEBC has settled the 200+ disputes that arose from party primaries, it did so in just 2 days. Aspirants dissatisfied with the IEBC’s verdict on their cases have currently filed cases with the High Court to have their disputes re-opened and then resolved a new. And until the High Court resolves these issues it will be difficult to know what the final party lists look like.

Capital FM News has released a provisional list of political party nominees (see here). Despite the that it is only 30 days to the next election; that the party primaries where conducted more than 10 days ago; that the IEBC has already ruled on 200+ party primary disputes; and that the IEBC is already receiving nomination papers from prospective candidates (see here), it will probably be while before we see final party lists.

So where did things go wrong?

Could it be when the 10th Parliament began to play fast and loose with the Election Act and the Political Parties Act. The now former members of parliament changed the date that aspirants were allowed to party hop not once, not twice but three times.

The former parliamentarians also postpone the date by which parties had to submit final party lists. And in response to the postponement of this date political parties changed the date on which they were to hold their primaries to the last possible minute before they had to submit party list to try and late avoid defections.

As a consequence the IEBC only had a limited time in which to resolve political party primary disputes. In the short time between the party nomination, dispute resolution, and the next election, it seems that the IEBC will also have little time to sanction parties in which the irregularities occurred.

Does anyone every wondered what would have if the parliamentarian had not tampered with the Election and Political Parties Act?

What are your thoughts on the political party primaries?

 

Should Aspirants linked to Corruption Scandals Be Allowed to Run for Public Office?

Posted by on 1st February 2013

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At this point it is difficult to tell if any of the aspirants for the upcoming election have been vetted, not because they have not been, but if they have been the vetting process has not been very public. Remember the vetting of the judges, the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the Commissioners, all very public.

Of course there are trite responses as to why aspirants for elective positions have not been publicly vetted i.e.  With 4,200 seats to be vied for there are just too many people to be vetted before the next election; or the citizenry will vet the aspirants for public office through their vote at the ballot box; or clearance to run in the election by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is vetting enough.

In varying degrees all these arguments are probably quite valid. However since promulgation of the new constitution, there is a new standard against which we measure our elected leaders, Chapter Six of the constitution written about here, and here. And despite the MPs attempts to water down the constitution in the Leadership and Integrity Act the Constitution is still the main law of the land.

As part of its bid to hold leaders accountable to the standards set out in Chapter 6 of the constitution the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) recently published a report, “Realizing Integrity Law: Walking the Talk – A Consolidated Analytical Account of Adversely Mentioned Persons as Contained in Publicly Available Reports.”

The LSK report is quite a comprehensive in its coverage going into scandals as far back as 1991 i.e. The Commission of Inquiry into the death of Robert Ouko, 1991 (the Gicheru Commission Report); and covering more recent on-going corruption scandals – the Country Development Fund (CDF) Mismanagement (the Ababu Namwamba Report), The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the land law system of Kenya, 1999/2009 (the Njonjo Commission Report), The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Illegal and Irregular Allocation of Public Lands, 2003/2004 (the Ndung’u Report on land grabbing). The last one is quite pertinent considering land grabbing has been front and centre in the recent presidential campaigns.

The most interesting part of the LSK report, particularly if one does not have the time to read it in its entirety, is the consolidated matrix of adversely mentioned persons, persons recommended for prosecution or surcharge in relation to public loss, and outright crime of negligence in Kenya. It is shocking, or maybe not so shocking how many of the adversely are running in the March 4 election, particularly if vetting of aspirants has indeed taken place.

The report is quite careful and does not ascribe guilt. However the question remains should those implicated the serious crimes covered in the report (complicity to individual and / or mass human rights violations, incitement to violence, murder and forcible displacement of persons, aiding and abetting illegal activities, gross negligence in the performance of duty, including concealment of information, funding warriors who engaged in ethnic clashes) be allowed to stand for public office?

Read the full report here.

Now that the 10th Parliament failed to Pass the Campaign Finance Bill

Posted by on 28th January 2013

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Now that the political party primaries are over we can expect that campaigns for the general election on March 4th to begin in earnest.  However the campaigns will remain largely unregulated at least as far as campaign financing is concerned. Why? Because the MPs of the 10th Parliament left the House, or rather their term expired on 14th January, without them passing the Campaign Finance Bill, 2012.

The Campaign Finance Bill sought to regulate campaign financing in way that has never happened in previous electoral campaigns. The Bill would have regulated amounts and kind of donations that political parties and aspirants can receive, it would have placed a ban on anonymous contributions, would have obligated parties and aspirants to make full disclosure and documentation of sources of funds.

Basically, the bill would have created some sort of transparency with regards campaign financing and expenditure by political parties and aspirants; and let’s face the bill would timely since we as the citizenry know very little about how parties and aspirants finance their campaigns. What we do know is that both political parties and aspirants for various elected positions spend millions and maybe even billions on campaign finance and this year will be no different.

As early as February 2012 papers were already making predictions that the coming election would most likely be our most expensive elections yet: not just in terms of the cost of running elections, but also in terms of how much political parties and aspirants will spend on financing campaigns. The East African put the price tag at upwards of 130 million shillings per candidate while a report in the Nation put the estimates to be spent by Presidential aspirants alone somewhere in the billions.

This is a problem for several reasons financing and the secrecy that surrounds it distorts the democratic process.

Unregulated campaign financing creates an uneven playing field – not every aspirant/political party can raise billions or even hundreds of millions or are independently wealthy to finance their campaigns the tune of billions or hundreds of millions. The parties and aspirants with the most money to spend obviously get more airtime (and airtime whether TV, radio, billboards, t-shirts does not come cheap. More airtime means greater exposure, greater exposure means that more people, voters know you regardless of whether or not you are the better candidate, and people vote for people they feel they know. With unregulated campaign finance the parties with less money are woefully disadvantaged in terms of national exposure.

Unregulated campaign financing also distorts voters’ choices, particularly where a majority of the voters are poor or youth with no jobs, the amount of money parties/aspirants can spend means that choice is no longer based on rational, fair and equal examination of competing ideas but rather which aspirant/party that can give the biggest handouts.  Also money raised from the private, anonymous sources is unlikely to come without strings attached. In short the secrecy that surrounds campaign finance allows electoral corruption to flourish.

Given the many pitfalls of unregulated campaign financing the obvious question is, given that the 10th Parliament passed a record 30 bills in its last few days (20 of the bills dated 2012 and the rest dated 2013) why wasn’t the Campaign Finance Bill among those past?

How much does a Retired President Cost?

Posted by on 24th January 2013

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On Monday last week the President assented to the Presidential Retirement Benefits Amendment Bill and rejected Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill. Presidential Retirement Benefits (Amendment) Bill 2012 makes amendments to the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, 2003 to take into account inflation trends and for connected purposes. What “connected purposes” are is unexplained but in layman’s terms what the Presidential Retirement Benefits Amendment Bill does is it substantially raises the cost of the retired president to the tax payer.

Of course the argument has been made that the President assenting to his own retirement benefits while rejecting retirement benefits for MPs and State Officers is a fair trade off. Why? The send off for MPs and State Officers was going to cost tax payers upwards of 2.6 billion shillings while the President’s retirement benefits are going to cost tax payers an estimated 25 million shillings, and 25 million is much less than 2.6 billion.

The catch is that President’s pension gets remitted to him until the day of his death and after that to his spouse until her death in the long run this could add up to billions of shillings.

The papers have estimated that the initial benefits will cost taxpayers at least 25 million shillings. According to the Presidential Retirement Benefits Amendment Bill 2012 and Presidential Retirements Benefits Act 2003 this is how the 25 million it breaks down: Kshs. 9,120,000 in calculable benefits plus the cost of other benefits which amounts are not included in the Act.

Lump sum payment on retirement, calculated as a sum equal to one and half year salary for each term served as President. The President has served two terms according to newspaper sources the President earns a basic salary of 2 million shillings  6,000,000
 A monthly pension equal to eighty per cent of the monthly salary currently paid to the President.  1,600,000 per month
An entertainment allowance equal to 15% of the President’s annual salary  300,000 per month
A  housing allowance to cater for both an urban and a rural dwelling equal to 23% of the President’s annual salary  460,000 per month
Fuel allowance equal to 15% of the President’s current annual salary  300,000 per month
Electricity, water and telephone facilities equal to 23% of the President’s annual salary 

 

460,000 per month
Total 9,120,000

Additional benefits include

 

  • A suitable office space, not exceeding one thousand square metres, with appropriate furniture, furnishings, office machines, equipment and office supplies, to be provided and maintained by the Government
  • two new cars of the retired President’s choice, replaceable every three years, each car having an engine capacity of three thousand cubic centimetres
  • two four-wheel drive motor vehicles of the retired President’s choice, replaceable every three years, each vehicle having an engine capacity of three thousand, four hundred cubic centimetres
  • full medical and hospital cover, providing for local and overseas treatment, with a reputable insurance company for the retired President and his spouse and his children under the age of eighteen years;
  • Staff: Two personal assistants; four secretaries; four messengers; four drivers; 12 guards (6 personal and 6 residential); two gardeners; 2 laundry persons; four house cleaners; two house keepers; two cooks;
  • office maintenance; maintenance and running expenses of vehicles;
  • a diplomatic passport; local travel; and international travel allowance of up to four trips a year not exceeding two weeks each.

And according to the Act all this shall be tax exempt, “The pension and other benefits conferred by this Act shall, notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, be exempt from tax.”

While I’m sure no Kenyan is opposed to the President receiving a fair pension, this is exorbitant and seems unconstitutional given that the law seems to have been passed without the say so of the  Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the body mandated to regulate and determine salaries of state officers, including the President.

 

On High Stakes Political Party Nominations

Posted by on 21st January 2013

Categories: Uncategorized

When one reads the definition of political party nominations, political party nominations seem pretty innocuous: it’s the process that political parties use to select a candidate for an election to a particular office, in our case – President, Senator, Governor, Member of Parliament, or Women’s Representative etc. The political party nomination usually happens through a primary election, or direct nomination. Political party nominations are competitive, the people who are running want to win, but one assumes that political party should be pretty harmless they are after all not the real election.

However so this has not been the case, to say that the recent days political party primaries have been fraught would be an understatement. There have been been delays, violence, allegations of rigging, fake nomination certificates, fake education certificates, blame traded between the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and political parties over whose to blame for the delays, parties have extended their nomination dates, the IEBC has pushed back deadlines response, schools have been closed but by the far the saddest thing is that so far two people have been shot in political primary related incidences.

Why have the party nominations been so fraught? After all they are just party nominations, the real election is yet to happen. The thing is with our voting patterns political party primaries are not just party primaries. In the some places where particular political parties have a strong hold, the party primary is the election, and if an aspirant wins that a particular political party’s nomination they will probably win the election in that area.

 

For instance if party x (insert party name) has a strong hold in area y (insert area name) because the voters in area in y only vote for party x, then it follows that the nominee for party x will win whatever seat be it MP, governor, senator or women’s representative in the election because people will vote for the party, regardless of the nominee. And this is necessarily a formula for high stakes political party politics, because each party can only have one nominee for each position.

 

If an aspirant is running in an area where the populace only vote for a particular party what matters is not what the aspirant’s qualities are, or the values they espouse, but rather the party to which they belong. The first hurdle is getting into the ‘right’ party, but once an aspirant is in the right party, clinching the nomination becomes highly important because it signals a win in the election because the voters in the that particular area only vote for one particular party.

If only one person can be nominated for each seat it means that, the race or in our case fight for the parties nomination will be vicious in areas where the party has a strong hold, and it is because of this perhaps that the violence, or voter tampering in political primaries has been particularly bad in the some areas.

Voters can change this, however unless our voting patterns change we will probably continue to recycle the old guard who control the nomination process.

What are your thoughts on the recent political party nominations?