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Wednesday, 5 May 2010


As the election campaign period in the UK gives way to the actual voting day, any keen Kenyan observer would by now have noticed one glaring omission. There has not been any single public rally addressed by the three contenders for Number 10 Downing Street.

Public rallies in Kenya have become like a must have for any politician seeking an elective post. And for the leaders serving in government, this translates to an open-ended license to mobilize state resources to whip up support for their re-election bid.

For a sitting President or Cabinet minister, this inevitably it seems, is a perfect opportunity to misuse taxpayers funds to grease their campaign machinery. They will criss-cross the country or constituency in convoys of fuel-guzzling government vehicles with civil servants in tow, which gives them an obvious advantage over their opponents.

For the shrewed politicians, no pre-panning efforts are spared in order to ensure that their public rallies are well attended. Even if it means hiring crowds and transporting them to the venue. The TV camera, they have been 'well' briefed, likes large crowds.

Here in the UK, those seeking  to be Prime Minister have no deep seated penchant to address mammoth crowds. Instead, they are content with addressing small groups or even individuals, as they move from door to door, selling their campaign pledges in homes, factories, schools, hospitals or even social clubs. Special addresses are given in conventions or town hall  like meetings, however.

Many of the campaigns by Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Gordon Brown could have most likely pass unnoticed, were it not for the media. And come news time, one is likely to only come across the campaign activities of these three candidates, with an occasional coverage of other parliamentary aspirants. Unlike in Kenya, where nearly every seeker of elective seats wants coverage.

Of course the socio-economic and political dynamics at play in the UK are markedly different than those found in Kenya, especially when it comes to the culture of cash handouts to entice voters. But that still does not make it out of order to question the obsession with public rallies in Kenyan politics.

Think of the wasted manhours, the pilfering of public resources and the associated election malpractices perpetuated through public gatherings like incitement and hate speech. Is the public rally a necessary platform for politicians to sell their policies or campaign pledges?

As proved by the UK election campaigns, there is a better alternative.

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