The Citizen Handbook


The Constitution of Kenya, 2010: The People’s Power


Elections: Representation of the People

The Electoral System

Introduction

Genuine democratic elections are an expression of sovereignty, which belongs to the people. This free expression of voters provides the basis for authority and legitimacy in government. The rights of citizens to vote, and be elected,through periodic democratic elections are internationally recognized human rights. Furthermore, genuine democratic elections are central to maintaining peace and stability and establishing a mandate for democratic governance. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21), the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (Article 25), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Article 13) provide everyone the right and opportunity to participate in the government and public affairs of his or her own country without discrimination or unreasonable restrictions. A person can exercise this right directly through referenda and standing for elected office,or s/he can exercise it through freely chosen representatives.

What is your role in Elections?

The Constitution recognizes the will of the people as the basis for the authority of government. This is determined through genuine periodic elections that guarantee every eligible voter the right and opportunity to participate in free and fair universal suffrage. An election must occur through secret ballot, or equivalent free voting procedures. Furthermore, the results should be accurate, announced in a timely manner, and respected. Not all of us are in a position to serve as elected leaders. As such, we must periodically participate in a democratic process of elections to agree on representatives to communicate and respond to our needs. This is why your vote is so important during elections. Some of the specific roles you play in elections are to:
 ·         make informed choices in electing leaders of integrity;
·         participate in the electoral process (e.g. by registering as a voter and voting during elections);
 ·         promote a peaceful electoral process;
 ·         refrain from activities that breach peace; and
 ·         refrain from engaging in activities that constitute electoral offences;

Our electoral system is comprised of three formulas for winning elections - (1) absolute majority, (2) plurality, and (3) proportion. Below explains each formula in detail:

Absolute Majority

An absolute majority formula means that a candidate must receive at least 50 per cent plus 1 vote of the total valid votes to win the election. If there is no winner by absolute majority, then there is usually a second round of fresh voting, also known as a 'run-off,' which occurs between top two candidates of the first election. In the run-off election, a candidate does not need an absolute majority to be the winner. Instead, the winner of the run-off election is the candidate that receives the most votes. See below sample election results using the absolute majority formula:

50% plus 1 vote not achieved. Therefore, the two candidates with the most votes go to a run-off. In this case it is Candidates A and D


Candidate

Number of Votes

Per cent of Votes

>

Candidate A

5,367,439

43.95%


Candidate B

163,901

1.27%


Candidate C

501,287

3.9%

>

Candidate D

3,612,903

28.16%


Candidate E

1,972,283

15.37%


Candidate F

938,103

7.31%


Total Votes:

12,825,915


 

Based on the example above, the top two candidates receiving the most votes are Candidate A and Candidate D. Since the candidate who received the highest number of votes (Candidate A) did not reach the required absolute majority of 50% plus 1 vote, Candidate A must compete against Candidate D in a fresh run-off election. The candidate with the most votes will win the run-off election. The absolute majority formula applies to presidential elections in our country where a run-off election occurs if no presidential candidate receives an absolute majority of the total votes cast and more than 25 per cent of valid votes cast in at least half of the 47 counties.

Plurality

Under the plurality formula, the candidate who receives the most valid votes in the election is the winner. Unlike the absolute majority formula, plurality does not require a candidate to receive a total of 50 per cent plus 1 vote to win the election. See below sample election results using the plurality formula:

Candidate B received less than 50% plus one votes, but is still the winner of the election because he/she won the most votes, which is all that is required under the plurality formula.

Candidate

Number of Votes

Candidate A

1,643

>

Candidate B

3,768

Candidate C

905

Candidate D

78

Candidate E

697

Total Votes:

7,091

 
No candidate received 50 per cent of the total votes. Candidate B, however, received more votes than the other candidates received and therefore wins the election. The plurality formula applies to elective positions of the National Assembly, Senate, county executive committees, and the county assemblies. Candidates contending for one of these positions must compete in a specific electoral constituency, which can be a ward, constituency, or county depending on the elective position.

Proportional

A proportional election formula is one in which parties win seats in proportion to the number of votes they receive. The proportional formula helps to ensure that elected bodies (i.e. National Assembly, Senate, etc.) reflect the political views of the whole society, and not just the majority.

There are different types of proportional formulas used by countries for their elections. In Kenya, the type of proportional formula used is in the form of 'party lists,' where political parties nominate candidates to specific lists for special nominated seats in Parliament and the county assemblies. The IEBC determines the allocation of special nominated seats based on the proportional number of elective seats won by each political party in that election (e.g. National Assembly, Senate or 47 county assemblies). Section 3.2 of Chapter 1 covers more on party lists.

Overview of Electoral Formulas

Absolute Majority

Plurality

Proportional

What does a candidate need to win the election?

Candidate must receive at least 50 per cent plus 1vote of the total valid votes cast.

Candidate must receive the highest number of votes of any other candidate.

Political party must receive a specific proportion of the total valid votes cast.

How does the formula apply in Kenya?

Election of the President: A presidential candidate must receive 50 per cent plus 1 vote of the total valid votes cast and at least 25 per cent of the total valid votes cast in at least half of the 47 counties to be declared the winner.

Elections for elective members of the National Assembly, Senate, county executive committees and county assemblies;

Presidential Run-Off: if no one wins an absolute majority in the presidential election, the run-off election is also determined by the plurality formula

The IEBC determines the allocation of special nominated seats based on the proportional number of elective seats won by each political party in that election (e.g. National Assembly, Senate, and the 47 county assemblies).

Sms Subscription

Subscribe to periodic sms messages of civic education information by completing the fields below or sending your name free of charge to 20108 on Airtel and Safaricom