The Walk To The Ballot 2: The Presidency

Now, the queue has diminished a bit and it's your turn to go through the 'voter dip'. So you hand in your national ID and voters' card to the introvert neighbor down the block who is now the election officer. He might try to run your prints through some voter identification device but depending on where you are voting from, chances are it won't work. Anyway, he will cross your name on a manual register and hand you back your documents and six blank papers to fill. Today, we deal with the first and most important; the President.

With the debate around kits and allegations of corruption, there is little chance that everything will be error free come August. As a matter of fact, don't be surprised if some problems are aggravated.

But first things first, let's start from the beginning. Who is a President? Well, the basic definition is the leader of a country or part of it in a democracy, republic or dictatorship. In Kenya, and under the Constitution, the President is not only the Head of State and Government, but also a symbol of national unity, the chairperson of the National Security Council and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

The President and the Deputy President have an honorific title and are referred to as His/Her Excellency. It's no different from calling a Judge 'Your Honor' or the Queen 'Her Majesty/ the Royal Highness'.

So who can become President? One of the most repeated quotes by teachers through primary school was "anyone can become President", today I come to tell you, that's not entirely true. The constitution of Kenya provides the following criteria as the qualification for election as President;

  • Be a citizen of Kenya by birth;
  • Be a registered voter;
  • Be of sound mind;
  • Be qualified to stand for election as a Member of Parliament;
  • Be nominated by a political party or be an independent candidate;
  • Be nominated by not fewer than two thousand voters from each of a majority of the counties.
  • Should hold a post-secondary school qualification recognized in Kenya
  • The person should not owe allegiance to a foreign state
  • The person should not be a public officer, or be acting in any state office or other public officer except for persons serving in the offices of president, deputy president or Member of Parliament.

Back to our election day scenario, now that you have made your way to the temporary booth in the classroom, most probably a carton cube, the assumption is that all the people whose pictures appear on the ballot paper will have satisfied the above criteria. This is because it is the mandate of the IEBC to register the candidates and verify their qualifications. 

Before you ink a mark on your preferred candidate, you need to have the answer to another important question; What exactly is the work of the President?

In previous elections, you may probably remember that one of the first things that the President did after being declared the winner of the Presidential Election was to appoint a Vice-President. However, the new Constiution has brought about a new dispensation where a Presidential Candidate is now required to annouce a running mate who will become the Deputy President in the event of a win. The running mate's name is actually inculded alongside the Presidential candidate's name in the ballot paper. 

Another task the newly elected President is supposed to do is to form a Cabinet. Unlike the past, the Cabinet shall comprise of persons who are NOT in the National Assembly.

The full list of the functions of the President are provided for in the Constitution under Chapter 9. They are; 

  • Addressing the parliament once every year; and the opening of each newly elected parliament
  • Nominating and, with the approval of the national assembly, appointing Cabinet secretaries, the attorney-General, the secretary to the cabinet, principal secretaries, high commissioners, ambassadors, diplomatic representatives, consular representatives and any other public or state officer required by law; (Including dismissal of the same with the exception of the attorney general)
  • Chairing Cabinet meetings
  • Directing, delegating and coordinating the functions of ministries and governmental departments.
  • Performing any executive function provided for in the constitution or national legislation and establishing an office in the public office, with the recommendation of the Public Service Commission.
  • Receiving foreign diplomatic and consular representatives
  • Conferring honors in the name of the people and the Republic
  • Declaring a state of emergency, after satisfaction of article 58 of the constitution
  • Declaring war, with the approval of the National Assembly
  • Implementing the Republic's international obligations
  • Power of mercy
  • Assenting into laws the bills passed by parliament

The President can only hold office for two terms where a term begins on the date he/she was sworn in and ends when the next elected President is sworn. The Deputy President is the Principal Assistant in the Execution of the President's functions. He/she shall also act as President when the President is absent, temporarily incapacitated or during any other period that the President decides. Their term is concurrent with that of the President.

Here is an interesting thing to note; there is actually no specific provisions giving effect to the conception that the President's term is five years. You may have noticed that the current President, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, will serve a first term of four and a half years. Until such a time as there is a presidential candidate and the President-elect is sworn in, the incumbent remains in office.

With this information in your possession, it is my contention that you are ready to mark and dispose off the first ballot. The next part will be about devolution and the second ballot, "the Governor".

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