Electoral commission developing guidelines on how Diaspora will vote in 2012 polls.
The electoral commission is drawing up legislation to enable an estimated three million Kenyans living abroad to vote in the 2012 General Election.
Acting Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chief Executive Officer James Oswago confirmed that the commission was developing guidelines on how these Kenyans living abroad will participate in the 2012 polls.
Among other things, the proposed legislation will determine whether they would vote only for president or would also vote for governors, senators, MPs and ward representatives.
“The Constitution talks about the progressive registration of Kenyans living abroad as voters and the progressive realisation of their right to vote. What this means is that we will have to start from somewhere. We are working on legislation to determine whether they will have to travel to Kenya to vote or if they will vote from wherever they are,” Mr Oswago said.
Outside the country
“The legislation will also determine … how many years one will have had to live outside the country to qualify to vote. So what is clear is that not all Kenyans living abroad will be able to vote in the next elections,” he said.
The IEBC is also expected to conduct a voter registration exercise that will include Kenyans living abroad.
Speaking when the former Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) was handing over its exit report to the IEBC last week, elections boss Ahmed Isaack Hassan said the new electoral body’s priority is to register eight million new voters and create 80 new constituencies.
This is the clearest indication that the more than three million Kenyans living abroad will be able to vote in the 2012 elections.
The anticipated move has jolted some presidential aspirants into action, with some already setting up secretariats to map out ways to market their policies to this voting bloc.
Three of the presidential aspirants, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Planning assistant minister Peter Kenneth, have spent the better part of last month meeting with and pushing their platforms to Kenyans living abroad.
Mr Odinga and Mr Kenneth have established a diaspora desk in their secretariats fully dedicated to listening to and addressing the concerns of Kenyans living abroad.
Mr Musyoka was in the UK last month where he opened a PNU office in London to coordinate the party’s connections with Kenyans living in Europe.
Speaking to Kenyans gathered at the Krystel Hall, Hillford, East London, the VP announced he would be seeking the presidential nomination from PNU’s affiliate parties.
Mid last month, Mr Kenneth, while on an official visit to Japan, held two meetings with Kenyans based there.
Mr Kenneth first met Kenyans living in Kyoto at the Rhiga Royal Hotel before holding another meeting at Nishitetsu Grand Hotel with Kenyans living in Fukuoka city a day later.
He has also visited the United States twice this year and held several meetings with Kenyans.
“The huge diaspora vote bank of millions is a vital constituency for candidates, and if effective arrangements are made by the IEBC for most of them to vote easily, they will play an important role in electing the next President,” said Mr Odinga’s advisor Salim Lone.
“Diasporans are also important sources of campaign finance, and of course their high level of education and standing within their Kenyan communities makes them influential opinion moulders. These attributes also make them less subject to the political and ethnic divisions at home … we should not underestimate the diasporan voting impact,” he added.
He noted that Mr Odinga’s international and pan-African orientation has seen him develop links with foreign pro-democracy leaders that have enabled him to establish an unrivalled diaspora network and to rely on Kenyans in various countries to facilitate the organisation of his trips.
“During the 2007 campaign and much more so afterwards, he received numerous proposals from supporters overseas keen to have him set up a diaspora affairs office that would better mobilise and channel their remittances home as a way of bolstering the national economy,” Mr Lone said.
In London, the Vice-President called on the diaspora to support his bid for the presidency, saying he had the right credentials to lead the country to the next level after President Kibaki completes his term.
“I will be seeking the nomination of my party and its affiliates to run for president in the forthcoming general elections. In so doing, I will be seeking to secure the achievements we have attained so far under President Kibaki’s leadership, and beyond that, to open new vistas, new horizons, and reach higher goals in the pursuit of democratic ideals, social and economic prosperity,” he said.
Mr Musyoka also suggested that legislation be enacted to allow for the representation of Kenyans in the diaspora at Parliament and Senate level.
Speakers at the function called for the appointment of Cabinet secretaries from the diaspora.