The American presidential debates are not complete without debates from time immomerial. The leading candidates go tussle it out verbally on the silver screen infront of packed auditoriums. The rest of the world tired of watching at a distance is starting slowly by slowly to adopt them an told even tired Mugabe of Zimbabwe wants to come on board. In Uganda, in 2011 elections it wouldnot be done because back then they were not that popular although the mayor candidates managed to hold one where all the cabdidates came forth.
Come around 2013, the presidential debates are hard to dodge especially after what transpired in the just concluded American elections. our neighbours in Kenya have held maiden presidential debates in the first general elections since the chaos that marred the 2007 elections. If these debates affected their election bids is still a matter of contention as to what they contribute.
Locally our guild to has had Guild Presidential debates and we are preparing for another round of debates in the upcoming round of elections in a few weeks time. The guild nominees are put to task to explain themselves infront of their electorates.
The big question is do these debates matter or just a waste of time, a justification of the inflated budgets of the various Electrol Commissions. Personally i think they do although at a small impact. Lets start from the known end, Mitt Romneys manifesto in the 2013 elections was a convincing piece of work that looked to put America on the path of glory they think they fall or belong. It had all the best known projected taxes that according to him Obama had failed to meet. However during the debate he failed to show how these taxes were to be gotten to meet his multi trillion dollar budget. In the manifesto was a sum they hoped to collect but even he Romney didnt seem to know where these taxes were to come from. No wonder during the debate Obama labelled his manifesto as a ‘fishy deal’ that Americans shouldnt be duped into falling for it. It later emerged after he had failed to show where the taxes were to come from, that the bulk of the taxes were to be collected from transfer of American Jobs to China yet in his manifesto he had promised to create multiple jobs for Americans in a few months time. This would have been hard to point out if it were feild open air campaigns where candidates visit the village once and simply spread their gossiple through a microphone without really explaining how the gossiple will be implemented to foster the required change.
Locally i watched both rounds of Kenyan presidential debates and although many claim no issues were discussed i beg to differ because all the people were on the look out for was someone with a working plan amid the lingering problems of land grabbing, tribalism and intergrity issues for some of the candidates. For example all the candidates in their plans were talking about having these great plans for the land in their field campaigns but never addressed the issue of ownership of that land they were planning for because there is no way you are going to plan for something you dont own. Claims are in the air that presidential Candidate Uhuru Kenyatta owns multiple hectares of land in Kenya most which is prime land with great economic potential. So if he was to be president would he be planning for his own land, the peoples land, govt land or was he planning on donating most of it to the planning authority if it so happened that most lands was owned by few indviduals who were not interested in letting go of it. Answers to such questions come out in a proper debate against competing candidates because during field campaigns candidates assume a certain comfort zone that they spend half the time dishing out promises without taking time to really explain how such promises will be delivered.
Also half questions of intergrity of candjdates would get some light of answers. Mitt Romney had questions about his repatriation of jobs to China and it later emerged it was also embedded in his manifesto as a source of funding to meet the budget estimates. Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya had fingers pointing towards the ICC indictments answers that voters would never see if it were field campaigns because it would be hard for some to have the space to ask anything. Amongst a few examples.
Moving further locally down to the Guild elections its easier to ask competing candidates questions parttaining to funding in a debate than during those noise open air campaigns held in hostels.
Some still bring up the question of most masses not having access to tvs but am reliably informed there were live streams over fm radios in Kenya and every Kenyan to the best of my knowledge has a radio receiver. The other question of language barrier is sorted by translaters in these radio stations because for example Musevenis speeches are always in English but somehow grand father, a specialist in the local language always gets the gist of the presidents speech better than me yet his a million miles from the nearest tv.
In conclusion debates cant sway the majority of the electorate in your favour but it gives them reason to vote for you. As Uhuru Kenyatta who initially wanted to boycott the second round of debates but made a U-turn at the last minute because even a small hole can sink a big ship……