The good side of low-key Senatorial campaigns

As you read this, I'm quite sure that if I asked you are to name or identify any candidate running for a senatorial seat in your province,you would find it difficult to do so.Yet, four days from now the electoral colleges, made up of sector and district council members will be casting their votes for the person who will represent you in the next senate.

As you read this, I'm quite sure that if I asked you are to name or identify any candidate running for a senatorial seat in your province, you would find it difficult to do so.

Yet, four days from now the electoral colleges, made up of sector and district council members will be casting their votes for the person who will represent you in the next senate.

Some have argued that the law should be revised to make room for a popular vote, hence introduce more competition. That way, this school of thought argues that the Senate would be more of ‘people’s house' directly elected by people and hence more accountable to them.

They go on to state that with a competitive electoral process, the candidates we see today would be more vibrant, presenting stronger arguments for their plans as opposed to the cosmetic lines we normally hear on national radio and TV.

Alluding to the US system, they point out the loopholes that existed in the Senatorial electoral process that led to the famous Seventeenth amendment of their constitution.

Before 1913, Senators in the US were elected by state legislatures. However, problems with repeated vacant seats due to the inability of a legislature to choose senators, cases of bribery and intimidation gradually led to a growing movement to amend the Constitution to allow for the direct election of senators.

This amendment was passed on May 31, 1913 and like they say, the rest is history.

Therefore, referring to these weaknesses, the argument that our system might be prone to similar weaknesses with time or probably decades from now becomes a subject of interest.

To be fair, given the number of Senators that are elected through electoral colleges (14 in number); it would make no economic sense in spending billions on such an exercise especially going by popular vote.

Again, whether directly elected or through electoral colleges, the prime mandate of the senators is to serve interests of the people.

However, much as these arguments are valid and with time could be given all the due attention, what we need to understand is that the historical baggage rooted in decades of divisive politics largely shapes the character and roadmap of this country's politics.

The seeds were planted by colonial governments who, by use of divide and rule, created these ethno-differences that became a key component of the post independence politics.

Therefore, because of this rogue background, individual meritocracy for some elective positions becomes a difficult feature because of the historical forces at play.

Instead, the aspect of individual competence is guaranteed through other structures. For example the senate candidates are vetted by the Supreme Court and whoever is deemed incompetent is shown the door. For parliament, it's the political parties that come up with their own line up.

This leads me to another issue that rends credence to Rwanda’s formula. Given the cost of electioneering and the high level of corruption it induces especially on the African continent, the path taken by Rwanda offers an effective mechanism and produces better results.

Why? Going by what we see in the region, to become an MP or ascend to any high elective office is not necessarily determined by competence or what a candidate has to offer, but rather by the amount of bribe you are willing to put on table.

Because in most cases, our people are living in deplorable conditions, they are willing to trade their vote for as cheap as a bar of soap or a kilo of salt. When these elected officials get to their new offices, the first thing on their mind is not necessarily service but rather a quick recoup of the resources they spent on the campaign trails.

At the end of the day, we see run-away corruption eating into the entire system because the arm that is responsible for providing a check has no moral authority to do so.

Given this background and in view of how elections are increasingly seen as an 'eating' opportunity hence abating corrupt tendencies, Rwanda's legislative election process offers a pragmatic option.

For now, it does not only offer a working solution for the historical baggage that shapes our political thinking, but also acts as a check to the quality of individuals going in the legislative arm.

More importantly, it also closes up the gaps that would otherwise lead to the emergence of a culture of bribery within the voting system.

True, our legislative elections will remain non-vibrant but certainly the end product is much better than the hullabaloo that comes with other systems.

On twitter @asiimwe
akaeus@yahoo.com

Subscribe to The New Times E-Paper


You want to chat directly with us? Send us a message on WhatsApp at +250 788 310 999    

 

Follow The New Times on Google News