13 February 2013

Kenya: Use Polls to Choose Frontrunners for TV


MONDAY's presidential debate on TV was a milestone in the evolution of Kenya's democracy.

The eight candidates all showed a maturity that bodes well for a peaceful election. The public can now make a more considered decision when voting on March 4.

However the debate was also very long and it was difficult to focus on all the candidates. There was also a lingering feeling that the two leading candidates, Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, should have faced more rigorous interrogation.

In the United States, where there were also eight presidential candidates last year, there is a rule that they can only join the televised debates if they have reached 15% in the opinion polls. This rule would have restricted Monday's debate to just Raila and Uhuru.

That would be too restrictive in Kenya. However the organisers of the debate should consider, say, a 5% threshold to join the TV debates. That would have restricted Monday's debate to Uhuru, Raila and Musalia Mudavadi.

A lower threshold would allow more candidates to join in. But in the final analysis, it would be more useful to voters in future if at least one of the TV debates was restricted to just the frontrunners.

Quote of the day: "Practice for the best and prepare for the worst." - Burmese nationalist General Aung San was born on February 13, 1915.

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