NAIROBI, November 4 – The United States Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger on Tuesday urged Kenyans to pick up positive lessons from the historic American election.
Speaking to Capital News, Mr Ranneberger said public debates between the Democrats and the Republicans promoted transparency and accountability.
He encouraged Kenyan politicians to adopt debates as one of the avenues that are likely to address ‘real’ issues as opposed to personal attacks that characterise local polls.
“Here in Kenya, I have noticed there are no debates between (presidential) candidates and a lot of times there are no debates even between the parliamentary candidates. Debates help in transparency,” he said.
Another positive aspect Kenyans can learn from the US election according to Mr Ranneberger, is the importance of a peaceful electoral process.
The ambassador said when there were disagreements in the US people held demonstrations but they never resulted in violence.
“The US has come from far. For the first time in the history of America we have an African-American running for the presidency, and we have a woman eyeing the Vice President’s seat. Regardless of who wins, that shows the diversity of our country,” said the envoy.
Commenting on the expected record voter turnout, Mr Ranneberger asked other countries to focus on the need for all eligible citizens to participate in elections to strengthen and expand democracy.
Before Tuesday’s election date, millions of Americans had already cast their votes, a plan that Mr Ranneberger said the country encouraged this year to relieve demand on the actual day.
He said due to early voting, there was a possibility of determining who the winner would be by early Tuesday evening.
After voting counting, the US Electoral College and National Federal Elections Commission will technically announce the winner of the popular vote.
Mr Ranneberger however said according to the law, the winner is determined after the Electoral College meets three weeks after the election date.
According to the US Embassy’s Press Attaché Inmi Patterson, the size of the Electoral College is the same as the total number of members of both Houses of Congress which has 435 Representatives and 100 Senators – including three electors allocated to Washington DC.
“The Electoral College comprises 538 electors who include representatives from each of the 50 States, each state is allocated as many electors as it has representatives and senators in the United States Congress,” she said.
California has 55 electoral votes, Texas 34 and Florida 27 votes.
For either Barack Obama or John McCain to be legally declared winner of the presidential election one of them has to win with a majority of 270 electoral votes.
After the President-elect is announced there is a transition period of three months where the current administration prepares to handover before the inauguration on January 20 of the following year.
Mr Ranneberger said once the new President takes over there will be a complete Cabinet shake-up and an overhaul of almost all the political positions.
“There will be thousands of new officials appointed, those in political positions (close to one third of the diplomats are political appointees) normally change when the Presidents change,” he said.