The decision to nullify the presidential component of August 8, 2017 elections was irrational for several reasons.
The election process consists of campaigning, voting and tallying. Publicly available information suggests the first two steps were done satisfactorily, ending with voters dropping ballots into boxes.
Allegedly, mistakes occurred in the third step when IEBC took custody of the ballots.
If that is the case, there was a simple solution to bring closure: count the ballots, ascertain the winner, announce the results, and release the citizens to return to normal day-to-day activities. If the IEBC failed, there was a readymade, fallback way out: count the votes in the boxes. After all, the integrity of campaigning and voting is not in question.
Why did the Supreme Court not prescribe this obvious solution? Opening boxes and counting the votes is how Kenyans determined outcomes of elections before the introduction of electronics. Many countries still use this slower but time-tested method.
Some claim that nullifying the election of the President demonstrated checks-and-balances in operation and Kenya had passed some vague milestone. That is hype; nothing could be further from the truth. The decision to force the country to retake the first and second steps in the election process was disingenuous and hypocritical. That is what common sense suggests, with all due respect to our esteemed justices. Beyond their legal exactitude, judicial decisions must also pass a common sense test; they may be clever but they must also show wisdom. This decision was clever but not wise. It did not show good stewardship towards our beloved country.
To wit . . .
If indeed the IEBC made all the alleged serious mistakes, the logical action was to relieve the commission of its responsibility until such time as (a) the nature and scope of illegalities and irregularities have been fully determined, (b) crimes of commission or omission apportioned, (c) the culprits brought before the court to answer for their actions or otherwise, (d) fresh appointments made and (e) an improved IEBC installed and admonished never to engage in specific illegalities and irregularities on pain of punishment.
In other words, due to irregularities and illegalities, stop IEBC from damaging the country further, assemble a commission to investigate what went wrong and recommend measures to ensure there will be no repeat. That will deepen our democracy: learning from our mistakes.
Incomprehensibly, the Supreme Court ordered the same IEBC, which stands accused of illegalities and irregularities, to organize yet another election and do so in 60 days as required by the constitution!
Common sense suggests that without major remedy, the IEBC is likely to falter on the same irregularities and illegalities – again!
It is important to recall that voters cast six ballots. The irregularities and illegalities must have affected all six ballots. Logic demands all six ballots should therefore be annulled. But the Supreme Court focused on one ballot: the office of the president. Isn’t the Supreme Court morally bound to point to evidence showing that the violations were limited to or more egregious in the case of this one ballot?
Failure to address these inconsistencies leaves the impression that the claim that the integrity of the entire process needs to be assured is a fig leaf for political machinations. How can leaving out five of six ballots validate the integrity of the electoral process? Why focus on the President and not the MCA, for example?
Kenya has been on campaign footing for over a year. Vast resources have been siphoned from development activities to support the elections. Economic activity has slowed down. Any further uncertainty is an unacceptable disservice to the owners of the country – the voters. Kenya can sacrifice only so much at the altar of the ambitions of any one group. Kenya is bigger than either Jubilee or NASA.
Although the decision of the Supreme Court stretches credulity, the majority of Kenyans will do their civic duty and vote again. Pulling out of the contest at the eleventh hour is too clever by half. Kenya simply does not have the resources to remain in campaign mode perpetually. The silent majority which is culturally disinclined to take to the streets has spent as much emotional and other capital as can be spent on an election. On 26th October, Kenya has an appointment with its future. The majority will honour that appointment.
And this is a tribute to that majority for showing civility and patriotism. It is that civility and patriotism which will progressively deepen our democracy.
By Dr M. Wachira | firstname.lastname@example.org