It could cost Sh50 billion to ‘buy’ the Kenya presidency, says the calculator
According to early indications, there will be 45,000 polling stations in the March 2013 elections. That is sharply up from the 27,555 in the 2007 elections.
A number cruncher estimated that a presidential candidate who wants to have an agent at every station, and is generous with his wallet, would probably spend Sh20,000 to transport, feed, and pay every agent.
He or she would, therefore, need Sh900 million on voting day.
Many analysts believe that because of the many electoral changes brought on by the new Constitution, and the fact that (apart from December 2002), since 1992, Kenyan elections have been decided by smaller and smaller margins, the next elections will mostly go into a run-off.
In the second round, the two top candidates would each spend another Sh900 million.
The barest minimum the leading presidential aspirants will spend on the two voting days would be Sh1.8 billion each.
That is serious dough. If over the campaign period every candidate spends an average of Sh250,000 to “get out the vote” (in campaign propaganda and gifts to voters) and to secure victory at every one of the 45,000 polling stations, then they will need Sh11.2 billion each.
The top two candidates who get into the second round, therefore, would require Sh22.4 billion.
But that will be if the election is not hotly contested. If the race gets really heated, the price tag could double, so the leading two will require nearly Sh49 billion.
Loosely speaking, you could say that is the new cost of buying the Kenyan presidency.
You might say that is outrageously too much. Well, not quite.
The Independent magazine in Uganda, that tends to be fairly good on these kinds of numbers, reported that President Yoweri Museveni spent at least $350 million (Sh28.3 billion) in the country’s February 2011 election.
That for a country that is much smaller in size than Kenya, and has five million fewer people.
Clearly, the general East African trend is that our region’s voters are becoming very expensive and notoriously high maintenance.
The difference is that Museveni is a Big Man in most senses of that description, and thus has a considerably freer hand in topping up his campaign kitty with the help of the taxpayer.
In part, this is because the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) is still a state party, so there is little difference between it and its money, and that of the government.
In Kenya, then, presidential aspirants will have to be either very good hustlers, to have very rich friends, or to be independently dirty rich.
The unique ability to disappear with billions of public funds without being caught could, of course, also help.
And, for the more religious candidates, God might well come to their aid by raining billions of shillings like manna in their backyards.
Right now, there are about seven Kenyans who have said they are taking a shot at the presidency.
That number, according to some wags, is likely to rise to 12. If it takes Sh50 billion, then it is reasonable to expect that the next election will become a three- or two horse-race very quickly. Not too many people can afford to put up Sh50 billion.
Secondly, especially in the future, the Kenyan president will be owned by the rich people he or she will have to rely on to get the Sh50 billion plus required to win an election. The era of the maverick independent candidate might well be over.
As it happens, all this will be to win what is a much less powerful presidency created by the new Constitution.
Many experts observe that the only person whom a future president can promise a job, and he or she gets it, is the Majority Leader in Parliament – if his party wins the majority.
And, of course, the head cook at State House and the presidential driver.
The biggest benefits for a future Kenyan president will be things like meeting with the Chinese and American presidents, the presidential flag, free accommodation at State House, the enjoyment of military and police salutes, and delivering the State of the Nation address.
I don’t know about you, but if I paid out Sh50 billion, I would definitely expect more than that.