LESSONS FROM US ELEC­TION

There are Kenyans who will refuse to ac­knowl­edge the good things Pres­i­dent Uhuru has de­liv­ered on, and re­li­ably cast their votes for which­ever can­di­date the op­po­si­tion will of­fer

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices - WY­CLIFFE MUGA @mu­gawycliffe

Ear­lier this week, many well-in­formed peo­ple had lit­tle doubt that Hil­lary Clin­ton would be the next Pres­i­dent of the United States. They were re­ally re­lieved that they would not have to learn to live with a Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Yet we are all now be­ing drowned in analy­ses ex­plain­ing why Trump won. This was con­sid­ered to be a pretty close elec­tion by most counts right up to a few days ago, with the con­sen­sus that the out­come de­pended en­tirely on turnout. Well, Trump’s sup­port­ers re­ally did turn out in large num­bers, to defy the clever pre­dic­tions of a likely Clin­ton vic­tory.

But turn­ing to Kenya, the ques­tion here is, what par­al­lels can we draw be­tween the just-con­cluded US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, and our own, less than a year away?

Well, first is that Kenya is ev­ery bit as bit­terly di­vided into po­lit­i­cal fac­tions as the US. There are Amer­i­cans who turned out to vote for Trump, solely be­cause he was the Repub­li­can can­di­date and they re­garded the pos­si­bil­ity of a Clin­ton pres­i­dency as “too ghastly to con­tem­plate”. Well, like­wise, there are Kenyans who — to the bit­ter end — will refuse to ac­knowl­edge the good things Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta has de­liv­ered on, and re­li­ably cast their votes for which­ever op­po­si­tion can­di­date will of­fer the most re­al­is­tic chal­lenge to Uhuru’s re­elec­tion.

If we are to judge by the out­come of the re­cent by­elec­tions in po­ten­tial “swing vote” zones such as the Kisii, Ka­ji­ado, and Turkana coun­ties, there has been lit­tle change in po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions. There will be no large move­ments one way or another of voteg blocs. The ce­ment has dried, and the fi­nal out­come will de­pend largely on voter turnout.

By-elec­tions, by their na­ture, favour the po­lit­i­cal coali­tion in power. This is be­cause with only a small vot­ing group to fo­cus on, the Pres­i­dent and his men can bring the full force of the re­sources they com­mand to bear on the usu­ally very poor vot­ers. The gov­ern­ing Ju­bilee Party cer­tainly did “dish out” what Kenyan pun­dits like to de­fine as “good­ies” to the vot­ers in Kisii and Ka­jaido in par­tic­u­lar. But it was all to no avail. The power of the op­po­si­tion’s anti-Ju­bilee pro­pa­ganda in the end pre­vailed.

The sec­ond les­son is that “all pol­i­tics is tribal” — in Kenya as in the US. It is now emerg­ing that there are many Amer­i­can vot­ers who some­how man­aged to give the im­pres­sion they too were ut­terly re­pelled by Trump’s racism and misog­yny, but, all along, planned to vote for him. Well, we have seen much the same thing in pre­vi­ous Kenyan elec­tions, and can ex­pect to see it in 2017 too

In gen­eral, Kenyans will dis­cuss “is­sues” for five straight years, in-be­tween elec­tions. But come elec­tion time, they vote strictly on tribal lines. This does not pre­vent lead­ing politi­cians from cam­paign­ing long and hard in re­gions they know very well are un­likely to ever vote for them. But this is more of nec­es­sary po­lit­i­cal drama, in­tended to es­tab­lish their cre­den­tials as be­ing non­tribal lead­ers who have sound “na­tion­al­ist” cre­den­tials. It does not re­ally change any­one’s mind or lead to any new votes be­ing har­vested.

Third, turnout is in­deed ev­ery­thing in any deeply di­vided elec­torate. What pow­ered Trump to vic­tory was his many sup­port­ers — some of whom re­port­edly had never both­ered to vote be­fore and were not on any poll­ster’s radar — turned out to sup­port their hero, and to line up for as long as it took to cast their bal­lots for him.

Amer­i­can pol­i­tics is very much like Kenyan pol­i­tics, in that the two lead­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in­vari­ably come fairly close to the 50 per cent mark.

When the mar­gin is that close, the dif­fer­ence be­tween vic­tory and de­feat de­pends en­tirely on how en­er­gised your sup­port­ers will be on the morn­ing of the elec­tion. In 2013, there was strong pas­sion on all sides of the Kenyan po­lit­i­cal di­vide, and thus the turnout was fairly im­pres­sive.

It re­mains to be seen if in 2017, Kenyans will be equally mo­ti­vated to come out and vote.

KENYANS WILL DIS­CUSS “IS­SUES” FOR FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS BUT VOTE STRICTLY ON TRIBAL LINES

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