21 Dec Is it time for Electoral College System of Election in Kenya?
By James Osolo
On 19th December 2016, Donald Trump was officially elected as the president of the United States by the Electoral College. You could perhaps be wondering what happened on 8th November. The American Constitution stipulates that the president is elected by a group of 538 electors who meets on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to elect the president. The 538 electors correspond to 435 representatives, the 100 senators, plus three electors for the District of Columbia.
The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between population and the selection of a President so as to ensure that a demagogue is not elected as the president. The second as part of the structure of the government that gave extra power to the smaller states so that even smaller states have a say in who becomes the president.
Each state has a given electors which are chosen every four years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The number of Electoral College in each state is determined by the population of that given state e.g. California has the largest 55 while some states like Alaska has 3 only.
The law stipulates that the winner takes all the electoral votes. This is applicable even if the margin of winning in a state is as low as 5000 votes. The winner will take all the Electoral College votes. In fact, in the just-ended election, Clinton led Trump by more than 2.8 million votes but Trump still won the election because he had more Electoral College of 306 compared to 232.
Contrary to the popular belief that the Electoral College is not against the popular vote, they are directly related to the popular votes only that they are state wise and it’s the winner take all.
This system has worked efficiently for over 200 years and hence Kenya should consider implementing to provide a buffer for the minority tribes and economic inequality which has been the issue in Kenyan politics. The American politics and Kenyan politics are more familiar than many people imagine. Both are divided in the middle though American politics is divided in terms of policy while Kenyan politics is determined by tribe.
Kenyan politics is a tribal affair with the person who is able to bring in the most popular tribe together will definitely win the election. Take the last election for instance, all that president Uhuru needed was two tribes and the same might probably happen next year. The change of the system by adoption of Electoral College is really not a bad idea.
Kenyans have all longed for a day when someone from Garissa or even Mandera can vie for election and have an equal chance of winning same as a Luo or a Kikuyu or even a Kalenjin
Implementing the Electoral system will not be very difficult considering that Kenya already has 47 counties. These counties can have their own Electors who will be used to elect the president as a result of a popular vote in that county. If implemented, the system might achieve the following:
First, the Electoral College will make sure that the counties do their own parallel counting and election of the president. As such, it is an important part of coming up with free and fair elections since everything is devolved
It will also contribute to the cohesiveness of the country by requiring a distribution of popular support to be elected president and will also enhance the status of the minority. Elections will no longer be determined by the majority tribes and counties but by the minority and majority swing counties e.g. Nairobi, Mombasa, Turkana, Garissa, Kisii, Lamu, Kajiado, e.tc. These Swing counties will determine who wins the elections.
It also forces the candidates to focus on all the counties and communities not just the once with the highest populations hence candidates will have to go regions like Lamu and campaign not just spending most of their time in their ethnic backgrounds. This will as well encourage equal distribution of resources so as to win equal support in the country.
It will also avoid an unnecessary runoff and legal redress, the Electoral College results can never be too close since it’s on a winner take all basis. By the end of the counting there’s always a clear winner and this will greatly prevent political unrests and violence resulting from very close.
But perhaps the most far-reaching consequence of the Electoral College will be that it will lead to the development of two political parties that strive for broad appeal, not just a particular ethnic community. If the system is implemented, only two can contest for a winner to be found in a clear circumstance. Kenya has unnecessarily too many parties, many with very narrow agendas. Hence the need to come up with two very strong parties based on ideologies not ethical linings like the ones we currently have. Forming parties through ethical angle will no longer be feasible
I am sure there are those who might think this system cannot work because of our rigged system and corruption. But that’s likely not the case. First electors are chosen by the parties; therefore, the electors will likely stick by the party and from what we have seen in this country most of the time the elected leaders usually remain with their parties no matter the situation. In any case the electors don’t adhere to the party ideals, there should have laws and regulation to ensure that they tore the party line.
I will finish by quoting Ernest Gelln” Tribalism never prospers, for when it does, everyone will respect it as a true nationalism, and no-one will dare call it tribalism.”
As a nation we owe it to the future generation that we eradicated the tribalism menace and if changing the constitution and coming up with the Electoral College as a way of electing our President is one of such ways, then so we must make the hard decision. Could this be the best cure for tribalism?
James Osolo is an International Political Commentator based inn Mombasa, Kenya. Email: Jamesonosolo@yahoo.com