Nomination day underlined the centrality of political parties to the election

Nomination day 2017 was an exciting time. Political parties and their followers came out in good numbers behind the candidates representing them at different constituencies. As I stood back from the excitement, I could not help but think back to a time when nomination day was nothing exciting, candidates came out by themselves; there were no observers; no supporters; and the whole event took less than thirty minutes because no more than five candidates were presented in most constituencies. In preparation for the June 2017 National Assembly election, an average of nineteen (19) candidates has been presented per constituency, including at least one independent candidate in most of the constituencies.
The elevation of nomination day from a non-event to an exciting, colourful, and proud event has served political parties and their candidates very well. Though it has been more than a month that Election Day has been announced, political parties have not been very good in going beyond their immediate groups of supporters to reaching out to the voters that will turn out to vote on polling day. Even with just more than thirty days left to polling day, there is not an air of excitement from the general population about the election and many of them still need to be convinced to go out and vote on polling day.
When one speaks to some of the senior people of the different political parties, they too acknowledge that they have not done enough to create excitement around the election but blame this on the very short time available for campaigning. A number of young people, members of different political parties who were approached on nomination day expressed concern that voter turn-out for the election will be lower than that of the 2015 election. They also recognised that their political parties have not done enough to excite the general population to come out on Election Day and vote.
It is not a secret that a number of political parties are vehemently against the provision of electoral education by civil society organisations. They view this as just another opportunity for these organisations to influence voters to work against their particular party. However, in the absence of concerted efforts by political parties to go out to teach, convince and win the hearts and minds of voters, the work that these organisations are doing is sorely needed. Political parties relying on civil society organisations to persuade voters to go out on Election Day is like a boy sending his friend to talk to the girl he likes. It just does not work.
The excuse given by political parties for their failure to reach out more deeply to potential supporters points out to a lack of appreciation of the sheer power they have in their individual supporters and their village and constituency level party structures. Every passionate and convinced follower of a political party represents opportunity to persuade, convince and eventually convert at least a hundred individual voters in the period from the announcement of Election Day to polling day. There is no denying that this has happened in some villages and constituencies, with party followers leaving behind the obligator party.