Tuesday, 24 January 2017 01:16

A citizen's guide to surviving an election year

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2017 is a big year in Kenya. It’s an election year which will see Kenyans will engage in a formal decision making process to pick their political leaders for the next five years. Already, political temperatures are rising and the political rollercoaster is already gaining steam.

Elections create uncertainties and can serve unexpected surprises as witnessed with the US elections and the UK Brexit referendum. It’s a high stakes game. Every election year is characterized by numerous challenges and opportunities. So what can we expect in the run up to the elections?

Heightened political coverage will continue to dominate our airwaves. Political analysts and commentators will fill our televisions screens and our newspaper pages as they try to make sense of the unfolding political intrigues. New political programs and talk shows will be launched as media houses seek to cash in on the windfall associated with the elections. We will be bombarded with endless political ads and surrounded by larger than life billboards and posters of candidates seeking to endear themselves to the electorate.

Social media platforms will be abuzz with political chatter. Overenthusiastic supporters will flood our timelines with political messages. Videos and memes of politicians and political events will be shared freely on Whatsapp, as endless forwards fill our inboxes. There will be a viral spread of hate messages innocently forwarded by an ignorant citizenry. Fake news, innocent jokes, propaganda and alarmist messages will be shared liberally online. Ethnic tensions will rise as people’s tribal sensitivities are stirred by politicians and on social media platforms.

Overzealous friends, colleagues and relatives will inundate us with their political persuasions, which in some cases will degenerate into heated debates and divisions in the family or workplace. Incitement and poisonous rhetoric from politicians and their allies will be a common feature. Opposing camps will trade political barbs, while political talk will dominate matatus, weddings, restaurants, pubs, burials and family gatherings.

The uncertainty created by the tense atmosphere will affect businesses. The stock market does not like uncertainty yet an election year serves uncertainty in double doses. Some businesses and sectors will slow down as the election fever catches on.

By the time we are done with elections, political fatigue will have settled in with most people saturated by the harrowing campaigns. Those whose preferred candidates lose will experience mild depression as they struggle to come to terms with the election outcome. For citizens, knowing how to navigate the politically charged environment is important, keeping in mind that an election is a seasonal event.
So how can we insulate ourselves in this political season?

As citizens, it’s important to be engaged in the political process, but avoid being overly invested emotionally in the campaign and election process. Do not be overwhelmed by the rapidly-evolving-never-ending political drama. Accept the possibility that your preferred candidate will either win or lose, and you must be prepared for any outcome.

Respect and accept diverse viewpoints. Do not attack or ‘unfriend’ people who have a different political persuasion to yours. Engage and disagree with them respectfully. Stand up for civility and the dignity of others by making a commitment not to post hate messages, resist the urge to forward those seemingly funny messages that have an ethnic or racist slant.

Do not believe everything you see or read on social media or even mainstream media. Be more discerning. Learn to question and verify every piece of information that comes your way. Stay informed, interrogate issues and candidates, follow the news, and political conversations. Ignorance, apathy and cynicism only aids bad leaders to ascend to power riding on the ignorance of the masses. Vote wisely.

Read 28 times Last modified on Monday, 05 June 2017 01:51

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