There is simmering ambivalence among many Kenyans over the monkey business that was party nominations, the mayhem it sparked in various parts of the country evoking bitter memories of the 2007/08 post election violence, and the predictable political fallout that followed. Party nominations have always been a passage of great danger for politicians and political parties alike but with all the electoral reforms that have been enacted, Kenyans somehow expected party nominations to be conducted with utmost care and decorum; but that was not to be. The nominations were in words of one syllable shambolic. Certainly, logistical challenges were partly to blame and that is easy to fix but what was also clear and which is a matter of grave concern, was that politicians and their supporters flatly refused to give the nominations exercise the respect it deserves leading to the fracas that were witnessed in several parts of the country.
The crux of the matter in party nominations is the inconvenient
fact that nominations give voters a chance to nominate their favourite or
preferred candidate and this affords the party the opportunity to pick a
candidate who is popular with the people and who therefore is likely to win come
the election, but the voters’ choices can be in conflict with that of party
insiders who have their own favourites and some important –others dubious– considerations to make in determining
who will be on their ticket. The solution to the party nominations time bomb is
however not necessarily in having tighter regulations as some think but rather
in having preset nominations rules and the elimination of the discretionary
powers that party election boards have.
Another issue that continues to be a rich source of ambivalence
among the population as we head towards the general election is opinion polling.
To be sure, opinion polling is relatively new in Kenyan politics but the
science informing opinion polling has been in existence for decades now and opinion
polls are extremely useful in the democratic process.
In a democratic society, the citizenry is the source of
political power. Elected officials represent the people and not themselves and the
government is not a law unto itself. Government policy should reflect people’s
wishes. There has to be a way therefore of establishing public views and
desires and modern, scientific opinion polling is a proven method of monitoring
public desires and views on anything and everything conceivable.
V. O. Key Jr. a leading political scientist of his time, once
quipped that “to speak with precision of public opinion is a task not unlike
coming to grips with the Holy Ghost.” People’s opinions are as changeable as
weather and they are as diverse as the heterogeneity of the population. Nevertheless,
on the basis of between one and two thousand interviews, pollsters are able to
make startling accurate claims on the views of the rest of the population. The
key however is to faithfully employ scientific sampling techniques but even
then no sample is a perfectly accurate reflection of the entire population and
so pollsters have to factor sampling error in their analysis which is why the final
results are qualified by a margin of error which is arrived at scientifically.
Despite its universal validity and usefulness, opinion
polling has received a hostile reception in Kenya. Opinion polling has been
systematically attacked and pollsters are denigrated with reckless abandon. Despite
their accuracy in the past, politicians continue to dismiss poll results wholesale
and, increasingly, it has become expedient for scholars to join the bandwagon
of those discredit them. Truth be told, those politicians and scholars dismissing
poll results are charlatans who are merely preying on the ignorance of Kenyans.
Disconcertingly, it is the likes of Peter Kenneth and Martha Karua who are
leading the onslaught on opinion polls and pollsters and quite honestly, nothing
is more disingenuous of them. It is no wonder that those who are polling poorly
are opinion polls’ fiercest critics.
But don’t be fooled, the ruling elite and especially those who
are dismissive of poll results fully appreciate the science underpinning opinion
polls and its value to our fledgling democracy. Thinking of such characters, I am
reminded of the words of Jesus Christ in John 3: 19-20, “that the light has
come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their
deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come
to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
Human behaviour is purposive and not as random and chaotic
as it often seems. The real motives
behind those politicians castigating opinion polls are anybody guess but what
is clear is that they much prefer to continue receiving blind support while
their unsuspecting financiers continue to grope in the dark. What however is of
grave concern is that these dishonest poll castigators are undermining the
democratic process by courting unnecessary ambivalence over opinion polls but
the public should not be hoodwinked.
Finally, the lists of party nominees to Parliament and the
Senate released early this week have provoked howls of outrage exacerbating ambivalence
among the population. The seats which are reserved for special groups like
marginalised groups and the disabled were filled with cronies and, lo and
behold, Musalia Mudavadi, the Amani coalition presidential candidate and his
running mate Jeremiah Kioni, had their names in their party list. God help us!