Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kenyans can learn a lot from US poll

Kenyan relatives of U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama celebrate his victory in Nyangoma Kogelo village, 430 km (267 miles) west of Nairobi on Wednesday. Photo/REUTERS 

By ODHIAMBO ORLALE in ATLANTA, Georgia

Kenyans have many lessons to learn from the historic American elections.

One is that the electoral laws must be amended, in line with the Kriegler Report, to make them more credible, transparent, accountable and democratic.

It was an irony here in the US, that Kenyans were enjoying a public holiday, nick named Obama Day, Thursday, while the 130 million American voters were back to work.

Tuesday was a normal working day in the US, only people working in the public offices, such as teachers and support staff, were given the day off. In Kenya, elections day is gazetted as a public holiday.

Plans to start the constitutional review is a step in the right direction before the 2012 General Election.

Political parties

There is also need for all the candidates, political parties, election officials and the Government to respect institutions, the law and democratic principles.

The over 150 registered political parties must start by promoting internal democracy before nominating civic, parliamentary or presidential candidates.

Throughout the gruelling US presidential campaigns, none of the candidates ever cast aspersions on the electoral system. In Kenya, such claims are the norm rather than the exception.

In the US, a leader must be untainted at all times, and any attempt to “steal an election” would not only lead to disqualification, but is also a criminal offence.

Senator Obama and his rival ensured that the campaigns were clean and not divisive. But in Kenya, ethnicity is a major issue in any campaigns.

Despite being the President, President George W. Bush, was an observer in the entire exercise.

Never did he try to use his big office to invite opinion leaders and voters to the White House to woo them to support McCain. The only time he went out to campaign was at a public rally or on television.

Be kept waiting

During retired President Moi’s 24 years reign, the State Houses in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru were always used to invite opposition candidates to “defect” to the ruling party, Kanu.

There is no need for voters to spend the whole day on long queues to cast their ballots for their favourite presidential, parliamentary and/or civic candidate, jut to be kept waiting for the results for over 48 hours.

The days of using a manual system are long gone and the Electoral Commission of Kenya must now embrace electronic voting system.

The systems is not only user-friendly and efficient, but it is also very transparent and allows exit-voters to tip pollsters and media houses of which candidate/party chose.