For those planning to be elected in 2022, some early advice

Wednesday August 23 2017

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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Many things in Kenyan elections have not changed.

However, in 2017, there are some marked improvements in fundamental voting patterns and some interesting facts that go against the grain in electioneering.

Three women were elected to the positions of Governor and Senator for the first time.

From zero to three is a quantum leap, given that women who choose to join politics in Kenya face many cultural, religious and economic challenges: the discrimination, lack of financial mobilisation support in a male-dominated, party based political environment, and gender based violence.

Even though we are quite far from the envisioned one-third representation in the elective bodies, Kenya has made massive strides in the last election towards gender equity and representation.

I would like to share right now some lessons learned for those who aspire to political office in 2022. Five years is a very short time to get your act together.

First, you need a manifesto that outlines what your policy intentions or promises to the electorate will be. This will make you sound intelligent, well prepared and sympathetic to the needs of voters.

Candidates who make references to their manifestos arouse curiosity from a certain group in the population, who then want to get a hold of such documents and read them.

It is easier to have a reference document, than to run around town kissing babies and singing Alleluia in churches.

Which brings me to another observation. Whatever campaign strategy you may wish to use, be natural. Eating roast maize like it is laboratory mice infected with a deadly virus will lose you at least 10,000 votes in one sitting.

Roast maize is a delicacy in many parts of Kenya and a healthy, if not sanitised, on-the-go snack for many in the urban population. If you choose to eat it, do so with some respect and decorum, if not for those who enjoy it,  then for the maize at least.

ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS

As a politician you need to know your facts, figures and personalities. Do not be that politician who gets caught in red on the public truthmeter. Should you choose to discredit your opponents, stick to facts, lying makes you look like a weak candidate.

If you are on TV or radio, do not refer to people by names that do not belong to them. If you are not sure, just do not use names. It creates a bad public perception.

If you choose to use sayings, proverbs or witty quotes, get them right before you open your mouth, unless your intention is to be the court jester of the political season.

Be qualified for the job. The law stipulates the academic qualifications for holders of various public offices. Although many Kenyans live in the hope that these clauses will be removed from the law it is better to aim for the office for which you qualify.

If not, just be prepared for your life’s story to be in public domain including those details that cannot appear in your eulogy.

DEROGATORY DEBATE

The flip side of being unqualified on paper is that your opponents seriously underestimate you, giving you an undue advantage.

Social media following and debates are very different from vote casting. They probably work better for elections such as those of Big Brother where the actual voting is done on the same media as well.

Political office is different. It seems generating the highest number of comments on Twitter or Facebook does not translate into votes. By extension, your supporters generating derogatory debate on your opponents on social media may make moderates end up not voting for you and the proverbial swing votes may swing the other way.

English, as the saying goes, is not a measure of intelligence. In any case it is Kenya’s second official language after Swahili. Spending time ridiculing politicians because they cannot speak English has proved to be an activity in futility.

The jokes are hilarious for sure, but at the ballot box, all those slurs are forgiven and forgotten.

SHOESTRING BUDGET

Youthful politicians are also a charm. The Ukweli Party conducted issue-based campaigns, introduced crowdfunding in politics and attracted admiration all round.

Some even conducted a clean up to remove their posters from the city before being mandated to. What a breath of fresh air.

Getting into office right now is not the issue, but setting trends in the way Kenya conducts politics is the gain.

Some of the things Kenya set out in the 2010 Constitution may not work, but others will work perfectly.

One can also tell the politicians who are on a shoestring budget by the clothes they wear. At the end of the day it is the votes that count and clean and smart will not work for the millennials. It has to be clean, smart and trendy.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa