Monday, September 27, 2010

Why IIEC has made elections boring

Sunday Nation 26 September 2010

With the three constituency by-elections held last week, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission achieved a feat many thought unimaginable just a few years ago. They made elections boring, routine stuff.

People voted in the morning and, by the time they went to bed in the evening, they knew who had won the election. Media houses that had prepared for night-long vigils found themselves having to revert to regular programming since there was no real “breaking news”.

The IIEC has taken all the secrecy out of the electoral process and, using the Internet and other technological innovations, it has ensured that every interested party has access to the election results as they stream into the tallying centres.

It has also become very easy to predict the likely winner of the elections due to the random nature of the polling station returns.

In a manner of speaking, the IIEC has robbed election nights of their old glamour and palpable tension.

This is not to detract from the impeccable behind-the-scenes manoeuvring that goes on in the IIEC back offices to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

As a matter of fact, the mark of a good electoral body (as with any service organisation) should be the ease with which they deliver their services.

The end-consumer of the product should not be troubled by the mechanics that go into making his experience fast and trouble-free.

It is, therefore, in order for me to formally join the chorus of congratulations to this body run by relatively young Kenyans who appear hell-bent on destroying the murderous excitement that has historically attended the electoral process in this country.

Perhaps as this trend continues, we may in future have elections or referenda in which the citizens wake up early in the morning, vote at the nearest polling station and report to work on time.

They would then find out who the winner was on the early evening news, and move on to more important issues in their lives.

In other words, elections should not be such a big deal in a citizen’s life that everything must stop to accommodate them.

Having said that, it is imperative that we do not get too euphoric about the achievements of the IIEC and the other transitional bodies set up to midwife the process of fundamental change in this country.

There have been murmurs about the tenure of office of the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission, and it will not be surprising for the same comedy to recur when the IIEC’s term nears its end.

In my opinion, all these bodies must obey the Constitution and pack up and leave when their mandate comes to an end. An important constitutional principle that is being ushered in by the new order is that nobody is indispensable.

All the good work the IIEC is doing can be done by any collection of competent Kenyans selected on the basis of their intellect, experience and character, in the manner set out in the Constitution.

The transitional commissions must ensure they bequeath comprehensive structures and guidelines to the incoming more permanent institutions in order to keep the momentum of reform going. That is the best legacy they can leave behind for future generations.

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