Why I am suffering from voter apathy and fatigue

Dec 18, 12 Why I am suffering from voter apathy and fatigue

I have never been a fan of Caroline Mutoko’s writing. It’s normally too emotionally escapist for my liking because of the raving and ranting style she espouses. However, a recent web posting on Ghafla about the article The Star (the Kenyan version) failed to publish reminded me of the frustration we share as Kenyans on the state of our politics. Putting aside the fact that the article was horribly written and did not deserve publication any way, I would like to point out that there could be more fundamental reasons as to why we are not trooping to voter registration centres.

As a young Kenyan I will boldly shift from our tradition of addressing issues by apportioning blame and tagging different sections of society as culprits as Mutoko diligently does week after week. In my examination of our history, systems and the Constitution of Kenya 2010 it seems we have a fundamental flaw in the practise of our foundational construct – our nationalism.

Whether it was ‘Harambee’ (Coming together), ‘Nyayo’ (Footsteps) or ‘African Social Justice’, it seems our conduct of nationalism does not go beyond the cobbling of identities in one form or the other for the benefit of a few. Our democratic credentials have no value either. It seems our politics is always about ‘reforms of convenience’. Our ‘Haki Yetu’ (our rights) chants never conclusive end or translate into ‘Wajibu Wetu’ (our responsibilities) actions.

This is therefore the first reason why I am doubtful of all the said coalitions; because they promise to bring us together but they don’t definitely articulate what will happen after that. Kenyans have always come together when our needs demanded us to do so; a good example being the Kenyans for Kenyans initiative.

Nevertheless every time our unity has been cobbled together by so called nationalists it has been for naught. So unless some illumination emerges to expound what this nationalism really means in terms of economic and social cohesion, within the context of entrenching devolution, I see no need to register my biometric data.

Secondly, I guess it’s time we should stop thinking of record numbers as a basis for authenticity in every electoral political decision we will make. The frustrations of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in attaining the eighteen million target should not be cause for alarm since if one is to consider the fact that double registration and ‘ghost’ voters are expected to be curtailed then the number of the electorate is also bound to come down. Therefore, the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technological input is working at maximum efficiency.

Nonetheless, this election could actually reveal what are the most important stakes in our republic. Kenya has clusters of people from all cadres of society who are completely unaffected by what happens in the event of prosperity or crisis. To them life either continues to be better or worse depending on their circumstances. Yet, they are continually herded into participating in a process that makes no changes in their lives.

Thus, those who may turn out to vote will be those that actually experience the changes that arise from engaging in political processes. Their sentiments will thus be weighted on our electoral scales making them the most vested and hence the most legitimate entities to make the decisions necessary for our country. This is why the issue of voter registration should be about legitimate numbers rather than record numbers.

So it should not be a surprise that for whatever reasons the interests of many citizens, like me, are not vested enough for them to consider ourselves credible elements in pursuing the progress of the country. Allowing those who feel about strongly about their interest to do so may be more responsible as it allows a genuine contestation of vested interests at play within the polity.

My situation as with many others is one of apathy and fatigue. My lack of caring, which I beg to assume is the case with many others, is due to the complete disregard for the interests of our ‘new’ republic in relation to our constitutional text as we head towards the next elections.

While I am expected to be voter fatigued as a consequence of the requirement to vote too often, our Kenyan situation is one that is so highly charged with political gamesmanship that it reduces the political worth of the individual’s right to make choices. This then results to lower turnout as a result of our lack of interest, the resulting inconveniences’, and lack of self worth in the political process.