When Kenyans passed the new Constitution on August 4, 2010, one of their biggest hopes was that the Constitution would help instill high standards in elective leadership.
The centrality that the Constitution gives to Chapter Six on leadership and integrity and the requirement of legislation that would establish a strict regulatory scheme on electoral conduct signifies the importance Kenyans placed on credibility and integrity of both the electoral system and the leaders who were elected into office.
Despite a very progressive Constitution, our electoral system still lags behind in operationalizing and enforcing the standards that the Constitution requires.
There are many reasons for this, including an aloof and nearly contemptuous attitude for electoral integrity adopted by agencies such as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) which, ironically, are Constitutionally mandated to enforce the standards of integrity in the electoral processes.
Further, lack of both financial and personnel capacity in these agencies and extremely undisciplined political parties with candidates who are unwilling to change the old electoral ways continue to play a role in the county's electoral malaise.
All Kenyans have a responsibility to ensure that electoral processes whether nominations or general elections are conducted in a credible manner.
Article 3 of the Constitution makes it a responsibility of all to "respect, uphold and defend" the Constitution. In this regard, it is important that Kenyans understand that they have a responsibility to ensure that political parties, candidates or voters do not violate the Constitution or electoral laws.
The Constitution and the election laws provide stiff penalties for electoral offenders and provide guidelines that bar those who do not meet the integrity requirements.
Further, the IEBC has powers, and is in fact required to take action against wayward candidates, including disqualifying them from running for office as well as initiating criminal prosecution which could result to severe punishments including jail terms or hefty fines.
Kenyans must be vigilant about enforcing the electoral standards set out in the Constitution and the election laws. How can Kenyans do this?
First, we need to understand the rules that regulate who can or cannot run for electoral offices, what conduct is acceptable during campaigns, nominations and elections and under what circumstances the laws allows for candidates to be penalized or even disqualified for violation of the electoral laws.
Indeed, in most instances, the law will penalize a candidate because of electoral offences committed by his or her supporters.
The starting point in understanding what is allowed and disallowed in relation to campaigns is the Elections Act of 2011 which sets out the electoral offenses and penalties.
For example the Elections Act prohibits use of force or violence during the election period. It also denounces bribery, treating and use of public resources for personal gains.
Treating is a favorite of most electoral candidates in Kenya and involves candidates or their supporters giving food items or other goods of value to the electorate during the campaign period to influence their votes. Yes, it is an offense if a candidate or his or her supporters treat you.
Secondly, Kenyans need to know how to intervene in the face of electoral malpractices. The Constitution and the electoral laws give the IEBC sweeping mandate to regulate the conduct of elections to ensure they are free, fair and credible.
The Courts have also recently ruled that when anyone has a complaint against a candidate in regard to eligibility, conduct of campaigns or the actual voting process they must first file a complaint with the IEBC and if dissatisfied with the IEBC ruling, can petition the Courts for intervention.
Complainants are also required to adhere to certain standards to ensure they present a strong case before the IEBC. The starting point is to collect evidence to support the complaint. For instance, in a case where a candidate or his or her supporters goes around bribing potential voters, one can record the incidents using their mobile phones and present the recording to the IEBC.
One is also allowed to present evidence of the corrupt dealings or any other electoral malpractice to the IEBC committed by any candidate or his or her supporters to illustrate why a particular candidate does not meet the integrity requirements of the constitution or has violated any provisions of the Elections Act.
Rumors, vendetta or unsubstantiated claims cannot be a basis for filing an objection. Real evidence is needed and must be collected and presented in the right manner.
Complainants must also be ready to stand by their claims and this is only possible when they can be identified and accessed by the IEBC. It is even more useful if a complainant can record his or her evidence in an affidavit and swear it before a lawyer.
Any Kenyan who witnesses an electoral malpractice has a duty to report it to the IEBC and demand action against those persons responsible. We owe it to posterity to raise our electoral standards. In any event, it is everyone's constitutional duty.
The writers work with Katiba Institute - You may visit www.katibainstitute.org for more resources on how to support integrity in elections.