BY WAMBUI WAWERU
Tomorrow marks the last day of voter registration and like the typical Kenyan that I am, I intend to register today.
One could say I have a perfectly good explanation due to the fact that I lost my national identity card sometimes last year. The nightmare of long queues haunted me for a long time until I finally went and lodged my application. I only collected the ID yesterday, which explains the fact that I’m registering today.
Quite frankly, I’m wondering how the 45 days are up already; the exercise that began on March 22 is now almost over! I had to grab my calendar and physically count.
Now that the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) hit the 10 million registered voters mark without my name I’m wondering how many other people are like me either planning to register today or tomorrow or for some reason or other will miss the deadline and not register at all.
Kenyans suffer from a sense of voter apathy which I’m yet to fully understand. Some people were even trying to squeeze a holiday out of the registration process (again, typically Kenyan).
Listening to the numerous vox-pops we have done here at Capital FM and even those done by other media houses, I get the impression that Kenyans feel bothered by the inconvenience of physically voting. This is where I suppose electronic voting will score highly once implemented.
Voter apathy could also be attributed to the feeling that one’s vote will not count because there often appears to be a pre-determined outcome.
But I would be quick to add that Kenyans could be described as very ‘political’. Political affairs dominate our national debate, news, business decisions even idle banter. Shouldn’t we follow through and ‘put our money where our mouths are?’
On the other hand, if taking charge of our national affairs is such an uphill task, the state ought to make voting mandatory, as it happens in Australia, Belgium or Brazil among a growing list of countries around the world.
Proponents of compulsory voting say it increases voter turnout but the fact that one is obligated and not convicted to vote leaves a bad after-taste for me. I think it flies in the face of the very democracy we would be trying to uphold to the point of representing a certain degree of failure in the democratic system of governance.
According to the IIEC there is an international convention of electoral matters that says that for a referendum to be credible, two-thirds of eligible voters must be registered. In 2007, 14 million Kenyans were registered as voters against a potential of 18 million eligible voters. So, what the Electoral Commission did was to use the lower limit to set their 10 million voter target.
Although the demographics could have changed slightly, pushing the number of eligible voters up; the over 14 million Kenyans who voted in 2007 translated to a 70% voter turnout and we could replicate this or even better it at the referendum and beyond.
So, go on … get registered unless you are in Kamkunji, Langata, Mvita, Malindi, Dujis, Wajira East, Isiolo South, Imenti Central, Mbooni, Nyeri Town, Kikuyu, Eldoret North, Nakuru Town, Ainamoi, Ikolomani, Webuye, Kisumu Town West and Bonchari where electronic voter registration will continue for the next two weeks to close on May 21.
(Wambui Waweru is the Features Editor at Capital FM).