Saturday, 15 December 2012

IEBC Principally to Blame for Poor Registration

Let’s talk about planning. Clearly IEBC does need a lesson in planning. It’s been 2 years since the commission was formed, during which time, a countdown presumably had begun. So it’s really rather ambitious and actually a bit ridiculous for the IEBC to expect to register 18 million voters in just one month in a country whose majority population live in the rural areas.

Oh yes, they say they conducted civic education. They bought the BVR kits. So why aren’t people registering to vote? It’s not the IEBC’s fault they claim. A huge part of being the body in charge of conducting elections is the charge of being responsible for how the electorate responds to the elections. Being responsible means taking responsibility for how things turn out.

If the claim is that citizens simply are not responding, then the situation should have been looked into long before the registration process begun. Unless the dear commissioners were on Mars during the last election it’s obvious that one of the repercussions of that debacle is that many Kenyans would feel that voting is akin to invoking violence. It’s the sort of voter apathy attached to the swindling of a nation through a botched electoral process.

It’s no secret that much of the population lacks confidence in the ability of IEBC to deliver a free and fair election because of the many failures by IEBC to stick their own timelines. The BVR kits came in too late, now the voter registration exercise is to take place in just under one month and already the admission is that they are way below the target.

Let’s forget about the ghost voters for a second. If an organization wishes to reach 18 million people there should be a more consistent and workable mechanism for that to happen. Given the circumstances that most Kenyans live in, it was too ambitious a goal to expect to reach all 18 million within one month.
If this registration exercise is anything to go by, then the IEBC is really not going to be ready to handle 6 elections running at the same time. Apart from the presidential candidates and their deputies, most Kenyans have no real inkling on the other posts or who to vote for. 

Interestingly enough, the very same politicians who have spent the last 2 years discrediting the IEBC are now urging people to register to vote. Yet the damage has already been done. Once again, the IEBC should have responded immediately certain allegations were made to maintain their own integrity. It was a terrible start to a general election already, and it’s getting worse. 

It’s not helpful at all that democratic values are ignored while urging people to register.  The number of insults pitted against those who haven’t registered is growing, as though that should motivate them.  The manipulative slogans such as “Bad leaders are elected by people who don’t vote” simply add fire to the situation.

IEBC fails to recognize one fundamental fact. Voting isn’t mandatory in Kenya. It’s a choice, and a lot of Kenyans are choosing not to vote. They are doing so because they no longer believe in an election that can either end up being violent, or a process that can easily lose its integrity. The belief that the election will lack integrity is rooted in the fact that IEBC itself lost its valuable integrity during the voter registration exercise.
To underscore this loss of integrity, rather than take responsibility for the poor voter turnout, the IEBC blames the nation.  Yes it is our fault as Kenyans because we don’t go and register. But it’s also IEBC’s fault for not rallying up the people, ensuring that they clearly understand the process and the need for their democratic participation without manipulative language, bullying insults and ridiculous timelines.

Two years ago, Kenyans in the Diaspora believed they would also participate in this crucial election. They were assured of this by the IEBC. Sadly, a few months to the election they are let down by the same IEBC. That is an attitude about planning and taking responsibility for the fate of a nation but at the same time, refusing to acknowledge that you are responsible. 

IEBC needs to recognize that their inconsistency in planning, in communicating to the public and in execution of their mandate has gravely injured their reputation and this, fundamentally is the reason why people are reluctant to respond to the call to register their vote.

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