The Star (Kenya) - - Politics -

f you were a can­di­date for po­lit­i­cal of­fice, pre­par­ing to run for a po­si­tion you had failed to win in three pre­vi­ous at­tempts, what would you say might be your most valu­able as­set?

In Raila Odinga’s case, the an­swer is ob­vi­ous: noth­ing is more valu­able to the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter than the nar­ra­tive — widely ac­cepted by many sup­port­ers — that he did not lose at all.

Th­ese sup­port­ers are will­ing enough to ac­cept their hero lost in 1997, when he ran a dis­tant third to the win­ner (Pres­i­dent Daniel Moi, seek­ing re­elec­tion) and run­ner-up Mwai Kibaki.

But when you come to the elec­tions of 2007 and 2013, there are parts of this coun­try — the Coast, Western Kenya and Nyanza — where you can­not throw a stone with­out hit­ting some­one who be­lieves Raila won both elec­tions. And fur­ther be­lieves he was rigged out by ‘a cer­tain com­mu­nity’ de­ter­mined to cling to power at all costs.

This ‘stolen votes’ nar­ra­tive is use­ful to Raila in two ways:

First, it jus­ti­fies his next pres­i­den­tial bid. If a man has tried three times and lost three times, you can rea­son­ably ar­gue the only dig­ni­fied thing for him to do is give way to an­other can­di­date who may yet pre­vail against their mu­tual ri­vals. But if this man was rigged out, then he has ev­ery right to run again to lay claim to what right­fully should have been his five years ear­lier.

Sec­ond, any­thing that re­minds vot­ers in key Raila strongholds that ‘their vic­tory was stolen’ is bound to im­prove turnout. In terms of voter psy­chol­ogy, there is a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween lin­ing up to cast your bal­lot for a se­rial loser (as Raila is in­vari­ably painted by his op­po­nents). And lin­ing up to vote for an over­whelm­ingly pop­u­lar leader who has faced the unique in­jus­tice of twice be­ing de­nied vic­tory won ‘in broad day­light’.

In one case, sup­port­ers would ap­proach the bal­lot box with weary res­ig­na­tion or very likely would not bother to vote at all. In the sec­ond case, Raila’s sup­port­ers would will­ingly queue for hours to vote, fully con­vinced they were part of a process of cor­rect­ing a ‘his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tice’.

What IEBC se­nior staff — whose res­ig­na­tions are now be­ing de­manded — need to re­alise is that they, like the IEBC com­mis­sion­ers be­fore them, are but pawns in a much larger game.

And whether they stay in of­fice or are forced to re­sign is not for them to de­cide.

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