System 1. Candidates 0. That’s how I see the current Kenyan situation, characterized by the most juvenile behavior of the presidential candidates imaginable atop a system that is working overtime for fairness.
Perhaps this is true worldwide. Perhaps when touched by the power bestowed on a poor man by its great society, untold richest tempt his psyche. This is precisely the case in Kenya, where both presidential candidates are acting like bulldogs not potential leaders.
Kenya’s national elections in August revamped its political landscape, solidifying power with the party of the incumbent president. But the presidential results themselves were annulled by the Supreme Court and a new election has been set for October 17.
The two candidates were initially sanguine and civil. They’ve unwound. Incumbent president Uhuru has called the judge who announced the ruling a “crook,” has vowed to “fix the court,” and yesterday proclaimed that even if his challenger won the new election his loyal Senators would impeach him!
Challenger Raila Odinga has vowed simply not to participate unless the authorities overseeing the election who were impugned by the Court are replaced, which in the time frame is impossible and was explicitly not mandated by the court decision.
So the one guy is threatening to pummel his opponent after he wins, and the other says he’s scraping up his marbles and going home.
Of course it’s absurd, and the behavior of the candidates is only contributing to the insecurity and frustration felt by so many Kenyans.
I believe, unfortunately, that the incumbent really did win the popular vote on August 8, and I agree that the authorities that called the election did so unconstitutionally neglecting to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. The irregularities were sufficient for a solid constitutional system to demand a repeat election, and that’s precisely what’s happening.
And the little toughies fighting out this august contest act like all they want is a good school yard brawl, instead.
So despite my own whining frustrations, I’m rather impressed by what’s happening in Kenya by its system and the wider electorate who seems as fed up with the candidates as I am. The country took a serious economic hit right after the court decision, but it’s recovered nicely.
It is the first time in Africa that a country remained peaceful after a court annulled a presidential election and set the terms for a new one. It’s the first time that the candidates accepted the court decision without hesitation.
It’s the first time that an authority that oversaw a flawed election (the IEBC) licked its wounds and vowed it would do better the next time. The IEBC is the most beleaguered character in this mess. Yet it plows on despite vicious attacks from the left, the right, the top and the bottom.
As a friend I was talking to this morning in Nairobi said, “We are all fed up with these elections. We’re just cracking on and expect to crack on after the next result.”
I think he’s right. I just wish the candidates would just “crack on,” too.