Senators back law on use of nicknames on ballot papers – The Star, Kenya

Politicians could use their nicknames on ballot papers in the August 9 general election.
This is if members of the National Assembly agree with senators and approve the proposed changes in time.
Last week, senators overwhelmingly backed the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021 sponsored by Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina.
“Over the years, you may have a popular name that you use and people refer to you using that name. Now, there is difficulty in law today when you want to use the name which wananchi know,” Maina said.
He moved the bill for second reading where members extensively debated the proposed law on Thursday last week.
Even though the lawmakers did not vote on the bill,  the vote has been scheduled for this week. 
They said the changes will end voters’ confusion at the ballot and the tedious process politicians seeking to adjust their names currently undergo.
“In the two last general elections, people were doing very crazy things, including changing their names. You add it because you think people know you well by that particular name,” Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said.
Sakaja said former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko and ex-Kiambu boss Ferdinand Waititu went through the whole hog to add Sonko and Baba Yao to their initial names.
He said Kanini Kega was also forced to change his name from James Mathenge so that his supporters could recognise him at the ballot.
“Instead of that laborious process, what Senator Maina is proposing is good. You apply to the IEBC; they have a committee that looks at what is reasonable,” the senator said.
However, Sakaja said the IEBC’s threshold for one to change a name should be tough to ensure politicians do not abuse the opportunity.
“They should not give you a name that gives you undue advantage. For instance, I can say that I want my name to be changed to governor, so that when someone goes to the ballot of Nairobi City and just sees governor they vote ‘no.’
“You should not have names that are not what has become nicknames,” he said.
The bill amends the Elections Act, 2014 to allow a political candidate to be presented to the electorate, party or election ballot papers in the way in which the candidate has chosen to familiarise themselves to voters.
For the proposed changes to apply in the upcoming general election, the bill has to be approved at least by April.
According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission election timelines, political parties are expected to conduct their primaries by May 2.
Thereafter, the names of the winners will be sent to the commission for clearance to contest in the polls.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the bill will help voters not to get confused when they are voting as they will know who exactly they are voting for.
“When this amendment is passed and fast-tracked, it will be easy to use the name that is most popular on the ground. When someone loses an election, they will always have an excuse,” he said.
On his part, Nyamira Senator Kenneth Okong’o said popular names resonate well with the people thus the need for flexibility in law.
“We want to pass this bill like yesterday so that when we go to the ballot, we can have “Baba” on the ballot. There are people associated with other things.
“You can have somebody in the ballot and they have their popular name as “wheelbarrow”, so that Kenyans can choose between ‘Baba’ and ‘wheelbarrow,’” he said.
(Edited by Bilha Makokha)
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