Rethinking fate of losers in presidential elections

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By Sunday Memba

“It is a terrible thing,” the friend wrote, “to look upon a strong man in the pride of youth and see him gather up in his hands the ashes of a great ambition.”

The independence constitution was not of a shipshape nature. Notwithstanding its shortcomings and loopholes, one thing remains solidly impeccable on the fate of losers in the presidential elections: most would remain relevant as opposition leaders in parliamentary positions. In these portfolios as members of parliament, they would contribute to debate and influence parliamentary decisions. Some of them, including Raila Odinga, as minister for Energy in Moi’s regime, even ended up joining the government in ministerial positions.

Currently, our grundnorm – from Austrian Jurist Hans Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law – gives presidential election flops no options but to fend for themselves. This is a very precarious position in which to put someone whose only failure is to attain a fifty plus one mark in the elections. The drafters of the constitution failed greatly when they allowed such a blooper to pass muster. One may notice that this lacuna in the law has actually reduced the levels of constructive political exchange to endless hocus pocus sentiments.

History may be the best yardstick in assessing the relevance of individuals who fail to clinch the iron throne. The first prime minister of Kenya, Jaramogi Odinga, is celebrated because of his political contribution to this nation. It is no doubt that although he failed to occupy State House, he still had his Bondo parliamentary seat where he served faithfully.

His son, the second prime minister of Kenya, has too failed severally in his quest to become president. In all this defeats, apart from the latest, he ruled the roost at Lang’ata constituency.

If Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka held positions in parliament, preferably the national assembly, we would expect something worthwhile to emanate from the current IEBC standoff. In parliament, either of them would be put on the spot to answer to their calls for the disbandment of the electoral commissions. As things are now, it is difficult to tame a wild dog when it’s unchained. The government now relies on other agencies to put the de jure opposition to clarify and sustain their claims – institutions that may have power but lack the political clout to summon and put them on trial. This has been a major setback in attainment of an opposition that can actually provide alternatives and solutions in the country.

The majority and minority leaders in both houses of parliament may serve as the de facto opposition leaders depending on their affiliation to government. This is envisaged in Article 108 of the constitution.  Currently, the minority leaders in parliament are the opposition leaders. Evidently, Mr Odinga would be a better minority leader than the incumbent Francis Nyenze. Leaving such a historically venerated position to weaklings is something to regret.

One of the reasons the senate is considered lame duck is because Moses Wetang’ula (Minority leader) has failed tremendously in making good politico-legal answers in the house. The raison d’être is that he does not understand how it feels to run and fail in a presidential election (although he has declared his interest in vying for it). The feeling of having lost the presidential seat gives one enough gusto to challenge the government or offer alternatives.

Political parties do have the wherewithal to nominate individuals to either the Senate or National Assembly before the general election. Thus, they enjoy the discretion to select individuals who represent their party interests at this level. Strikingly, not URP, TNA, Wiper or ODM selected their flag bearers in the nomination slots. Political jeopardy may be the one of the reasons that influence this tempestuous move. Nonetheless, time beckons for them to extend their tentacles to the nomination slots.

It is expensive to have a weak alternative government. But this is not the way the cookie crumbles. Sometime in history it will be prudent to redraft our nationalistic covenant so as to include this gem into our law. Kenyans should profit from their bloomers.

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