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Political Endorsements: The Achilles Hill for Kenya’s Young Politician

By Frankline Mukwanja

Political endorsement is the action of publicly declaring one's personal or group's support of a candidate for elected office. World over, this political practice has been popularly embraced with  Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama being one of the most widely covered and studied developments of the 2008 US presidential campaign.

 Winfrey, described as the most influential woman in the world, had never before endorsed a candidate. Consequently, there was much interest in whether that influence could translate politically. But scholars have since estimated that Winfrey’s endorsement was worth over a million votes in the Democratic primary race and that without it, Obama would have lost the nomination.

This shows how political endorsement can not only add fresh impetus to one’s chances of winning an elective seat but more so why it should be considered as a key ‘ingredient’ in competitive politics. And as the race toward Kenya’s next pivotal general elections enters the home stretch, endorsement is quickly becoming the much sought after ‘ingredient’ to add ‘flavor’ to candidate’s campaigns across the political spectrum.

Indeed, various groups with all kinds of tags such as County Initiative, Professionals Forum and Dialogue Group have emerged lately. In various CMD-Kenya County debates across the country, young people have raised eyebrows on these groupings. They claim though the groups’ state their overarching goal as to shape the development and political future of their respective areas, they are strategically positioning themselves in the kingmaker’s role. Comprising mainly of individuals from diverse sectors, including professionals, business, senior civil servants and Members of Parliament, the major dislike for the groups emanates from misgivings that they are increasingly under the control of the rich, aged and well connected elitists whose main intention is to control political power by determining political leaders.  

 More so, young politicians not so well endowed and without elaborate political networks to access the rank and file of these groupings now view them as the Achilles hill to their political careers. They are keen not to dim their chances of success because they are unlikely to be endorsed by these groups. The endorsement issue is so serious that young aspirants are now pro-actively mobilizing and organizing themselves and taking advantage of the CMD-Kenya’s County debates to declare a common and united approach to the crucial upcoming general elections. 

In a bid to assist the young aspirants overcome the Achilles hill that is political endorsements of their more moneyed and well connected opponents, CMD-Kenya’s County debates are affording them an appropriate platform to discuss their political agenda, challenge their opponents, showcase their capacity, track record and abilities to the electorate and the media. And the young lads are not disappointing as they meticulously make reasoned arguments on the issues affecting young people in particular and general concrete action plans around relevant development issues on education; agriculture; health, water and sanitation; investment and industrialization; and leadership and governance.