Tuesday, 5 February 2013

We Must Learn to Concede Defeat

A truly historic and highly publicized presidential debated in which all the presidential candidates will take part is slated for the day after tomorrow, 11th February 2013, and I have to say that I have both good and bad feelings about it. Good feelings because not only is the presidential debate merely a first in our fledgling democracy, but primarily because political debates of this nature are an essential part of the electoral process. The debate is expected to greatly help voters in their evaluations of the candidates and hopefully the voter decision come 4th of March 2013, will be more informed. Bad feelings because it is a debate that will be ruinously cluttered, defeating the very purpose of the presidential debate.

There are eight candidates in the race to State House but as we all know, Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta are the only two serious contenders in the race; the other six: Musalia Mudavadi, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, James ole Kiyapi, Paul Muite and Mohammed Duba are all peripheral candidates who for all intents and purposes do not stand a cat in hell’s chance of winning the election. Be that as it may, these peripheral candidates are expected to take part in the debate simply because it is politically incorrect to not have them take part in the debate. Well, I beg to differ!
It is my considered opinion that they all should have long conceded defeat and as such, they really have no business cluttering the forthcoming debate. Their participation will only serve to undermine the quality and purpose of the debate.

Don’t get me wrong, it is their constitutional right to vie for the presidency but it is merely ‘courteous’ to have them participate in the debate. Perhaps it is a little too late for them to concede defeat and quit the race at this point in time but it is a fact that their ill-fated candidatures are making the presidential race rather chaotic. What you probably do not know is that these peripheral candidates are undermining the integrity of the electoral process by needlessly complicating political choices for voters and making voter decision unnecessarily cumbersome. As for the forthcoming debate, their participation will in all likelihood undermine the integrity of the debate given that they are really non-starters who will either needlessly gobble up the precious little prime time available for the debate or make the debate unnecessarily long and repetitious. Either way, the debate will be robbed of depth.

Obviously, our politicians with the notable exception of Uhuru Kenyatta do not know when to concede defeat much less the value of conceding defeat. Conceding defeat in an election is optional but it is certainly good manners and a mark of political maturity. What however might not be immediately apparent to many is that it actually requires leadership to concede defeat when the result of the election has become clear. It certainly is not easy to say that it's over but maturity and leadership demand it. In the words of US President's Lewis Rothschild, "[People] want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand." True leaders however should never allow their faithful supporters to drink the sand, so to speak.

Let’s face it, the period leading up to the presentation of nomination papers to the IEBC for clearance to vie the presidency afforded all presidential aspirants an excellent opportunity to objectively evaluate their chances of clinching the victory in the forthcoming election and thereby determine whether or not to go the full distance. With the odds stack up against Musalia Mudavadi, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, James ole Kiyapi, Paul Muite and Mohammed Duba, it was not exactly rocket science that for them it was the end of the road in their quest for the presidency. It was an excellent opportunity to do the honourable thing and conceded defeat but they all missed it and in so doing their sense of judgement and credibility have been dented in the eyes of the public.

There is no denying that every eligible citizen has a constitutional right to participate in electoral politics whether or not they can actually win whichever seat they so wish to contest. Be that as it may, electoral politics is a competition and not a draw in which anyone can win merely because they are on the ballot paper. As Prof. Makau Mutua is fond of saying, facts are troublesome and the fact is that having many eligible candidates vying for a particular elective seat creates unnecessary complications for voters which no amount of voter education can ameliorate.

The presidency, needless to say, is such an important constitutional office and as such, the presidential race should not be used by rookies to test the waters or be reduced to an experiment. By failing to concede defeat and opting out of the race, it is my considered opinion that Musalia Mudavadi, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, James ole Kiyapi, Paul Muite and Mohammed Duba have failed to give the presidential race the seriousness it deserves. In addition, besides to complicating choices for voters and making a mockery of the electoral process, because of their failure to concede defeat in the nomination stage, there is a real chance that we will have a presidential run-off which will seriously drain the public coffers needlessly. It should surely be plain to see that conceding defeat is one of the saving graces of cut-throat electoral politics and we Kenyans need to inculcate it in our fledgling democracy.

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