Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Election Day

It would be very hard in Nairobi not to know that we were having a major election. (And probably around the world too given what I’ve seen on BBC, Reuters and other websites.) Over the weekend, campaigning intensified with the two frontrunners holding large rallies in two of the major venues: Nyayo Stadium which is just down the hill from where I live and Uhuru Park, about a mile away. During the day, I’d encountered truck and bus loads of people wearing T-shirts and baseball caps in the colours of their respective parties, waving and throwing flags, blaring music, evidently headed to the rallies. And even a cavalcade of about 20-30 motorbikes, sounding their horns. It all had a very celebratory feel about it. Later on, I was able to watch the broadcast of the rallies, whilst getting a stereo effect from the one being held at Nyayo Stadium, the sounds drifting in through my open windows.

One television station showed the two rallies simultaneously, the
audio going from one to the other
By contrast, today everything was very quiet. Barely any traffic, other than police helicopters going overhead. The construction that has been going on for more than 5 months now, ceased completely. Quite a relief from the pounding! Supermarkets were closed. Nearly all the local TV stations were broadcasting one thing – the elections.
For Kenyan citizens registered to vote, it was a day of standing in long, long queues in the blazing sunshine awaiting their turn. Whilst there were a few flare-ups, the over-riding impression was of the resilience of Kenyans and their determination to exercise their right to vote. And many turned up. They’re reckoning over 70% turnout.
The process for voting itself seemed quite complicated. It’s a long time now since I voted in person in the UK (it’s been by proxy for 10 years now), but I just seem to remember having to put an X in one box. Here, they’ve been voting today for 6 different positions:-
1.       President. There are 8 candidates. The winning candidate must get more than 50% of the total votes cast, and at least 25% of the votes in half of the 47 counties. If there is no clear winner, a second round of voting will take place between the top two candidates on April 10th.
2.       Member of the National Assembly (ie MPs).
3.       County Assembly Ward Representative.
4.       Senator.
5.       County Women Representative.
6.       Governor.
Each has its own ballot paper, with the list of candidates, including their photographs. Each ballot paper is colour-coded, and then gets dropped into a box, with a lid of that same colour. Clever!
The voting procedure laid out in Sunday's paper
To guard against rigging of votes, the process for getting in to vote has been quite rigorous, checking people’s registration cards, their ID, and even their fingerprints. It’s no small wonder that the queues were as long as they were, some people waiting up to 5 or 6 hours to cast their vote. As they waited today, so now, we all wait to hear the outcome.
There have been many appeals for peaceful elections. This one from
the Office of the President

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