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4 Reasons Why Independent Candidates Might Be Game Changers In Kenyan Politics.

A resident of Thika Town Constituency casting her vote at the Community Hall polling station  in Hospital Ward during the just concluded Jubilee Party Primaries.
The latest IEBC records show that 1,500 aspirants have already applied to vie for elective posts as independent candidates after losing in the just concluded primaries. Unhappy with the way the elections were conducted, these candidates have vowed to comeback independently, arguing that the elections were not free and fair. This list is increasing by the day and it is expected that by the time this window closes on 8th May, the number will have skyrocketed to astrological levels.

On the other hand, so many voters are equally unhappy with what transpired and they too do not approve of the choice of candidates who won in the just concluded primaries, both in Jubilee Party and in the NASA affiliated parties.

Candidates viewed less favorably by voters are now flying the parties’ flags, an issue that appears to have created some hope for candidates vying outside the two major political parties.

If the last four decades are any indication, regardless of candidate, generally, Jubilee strongholds will still go red and so will NASA zones as majority of the voters will basically vote on party lines. 

However, though the demographics may not change much from the traditional Kenyan voting pattern, the political atmosphere is slowly tilting from past elections as evident in the wind of change that has actually started blowing.

The voter this time round has unleashed his wrath on the traditional politician. Virtually in all corners of the country, the voters rejected incumbents and did some clean sweep in their choice of leaders. 

This alone, speaks volumes and tells you that it is no longer business as usual. The few who survived the primaries might also find themselves sailing in the same boat.

What key factors could tilt this election?

1. The last blow of an angry voter.

There is general disquiet among the electorate that the just concluded primaries were not free and fair. A significant chunk of them are dissatisfied with the choice of candidates, defeating the purpose of running a primary.

There is also a sense that power has slipped out of their hands and that their way of doing things is no longer how things are being done. They have this feeling that personalities within government manipulated the exercise in order to impose leaders on them with the 2022 General Elections game plan in play. It is no longer a hidden secret that many voters are now sharply criticising their parties for shambolic primaries.

This silent revolt might eventually culminate into a revolt by voters leading to them voting against the grain come August 8. It will be no surprise to see voters choosing their leaders regardless of their party affiliations.

It happened in Gatanga constituency in 2013 when the residents voted in Dr. Humphrey Kimani Njuguna (Roho Safi) on a Kenya National Congress (KNC) ticket against all odds. A similar scenario was replicated in Nyeri County where Nderitu Gachagua was voted in as governor on a Grand National Union (GNU) ticket along with Kagwe Mutahi as senator on a National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) ticket.

2. Riding on the victim card.

The easiest route to win votes for those who lost in the just concluded primaries is by perfectly playing the ‘victim card’. Candidates who will perfectly do their calculations well and ride on a sympathy wave generated by news of being victims of not being the system’s favourite boys might get a bounce from the outpouring of sympathy and despair to see a surge in support.

Attacks that will be directed to them by those presumed to be the system’s ‘flower girls’ may have some perverse effect of making their supporters feel defensive and more supportive. Furthermore, the presidential candidates will not respond with a hammer as this might lead to some kind of voter apathy, with supporters of those being attacked opting not to cast their ballot on August 8 in protest.

3.Millennial voter trends might be determining factor.

Millennial will have a bigger influence in the August 8 election. Voters under 35 years represent more than half of the newly registered voters in the country, majority of whom never participated in the party primaries due to their names missing in the 2013 IEBC register.

Millennial are known to be independent and render nonpartisan decisions with about 50% of them identified as nonpartisan. They view their vote as a unique tool wielded to represent their values rather than sticking to party lines.

They are also known to differ from their predecessors because of a general distrust in the political system. They are predisposed to assuming that those politicians supporting the current system are corrupt and they are the reasons for their predicaments.

This might lead to these set of voters rejecting leaders they believe are imposed on them by the system and come up with compromise candidates thus end up going for those who have presented themselves as independent candidates. This will be more practical if these candidates use ‘boyish image’ and social media to send a subliminal message to millennial. Then and then they have a great chance to disappoint the parties’ choices.

4. Mischievous voters.

No politician can afford to underestimate the electorate’s ability to be mischievous. Quite a good number of voters, especially the younger ones have a tendency to vote against anyone presumed to be working for the status quo due to what can be described as anger towards a broken political system. So, they will vote for other candidates, not because they agree with their ideologies, but because they can use their vote to ‘punish’ the system.

Kenyans are now more pessimistic than ever before, and instead of reforming the system, they might decide to blow it up. Economic despair and fantasy-based economic policy may be too potent a cocktail for voters in this elections for anyone to ignore. Voters may just decide to take a risk and that risk might mean independent candidates getting their way into office. 

Uphill task for the Independents.

All these notwithstanding, it is good to warn the independents that it will not be smooth sailing for them as party machinery will move into top gear to campaign for their candidates. The parties’ campaigns will be pinning a lot of hope on traditional voting patterns. The major parties have the financial might and ‘Goliathic’ political muscle to create some political euphoria and turn the August 8 elections to their favour.

The independent candidates must therefore be very convincing to win the hearts of the disgruntled electorate and promise them that they will be able to get rid of those in the system who have been doing nothing. Only they can overturn the system and this will mean putting up some extraordinary efforts to neutralise the Raila-Uhuruto wave within their regions.

Voters will simply choose their leaders based on the immediate reaction to the names they well associate with at the time of casting their vote.

People are known to be rebellious in nature and will go for anyone who promise them ‘hope and change’ and will support any candidate presumed to be competing against an establishment. Thus, the candidates’ ability to change the public’s attitude from frustration and pessimism to excitement will be their biggest investment.

To beat the system, they themselves, must create their own euphoric wave to demand from the people, the change they have really yearned for. They must also run the minds of the electorate to resist being ‘boxed’ into party loyalty that infringe on their rights. 

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