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Debates are chance to evaluate leaders

The just-ended presidential debates could have demonstrated a high level of political maturity if all the candidates attended.

Regrettably, the absence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, a critical player, denied it the lustre and vibrancy it deserved.

It ended up being an interview of National Super Alliance presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

Media have been organising presidential debates since 2013, with the express objective of presenting an opportunity for the electorate to interrogate their leaders.

Increasingly, the debates have become an integral component of our electoral process, affording the people a chance to listen to reasoned discussions among candidates on pertinent national issues; their policies and strategies for executing them.

PARTICIPATION

Democracy is about public participation. And the best way the public can do is through organised debates where they question leaders and seek answers to matters germane to their lives.

This is not possible at the political rallies where politicians take to the podium and talk down to voters and mesmerise them with stage theatrics bereft of substance.

The debates started on a false note last week when the running mates of the presidential candidates, except one, failed to turn up.

The public was outraged and dismayed; for it was utter show of contempt and derision.

But the greatest disappointment was President Kenyatta’s no-show.

OBLIGATIONS

Occupying the top office in the land has its obligations and responsibilities.

The occupant has a duty to explain his agenda to the public and be interrogated on the same. It is a question of accountability.

In this case, there was an added dimension. Political temperatures are rising across the country.

So the debate was a perfect platform for the leading political figures to meet, engage each other civilly and give an assurance of their commitment to peaceful elections.

Nothing calms the public more than the occasional appearance of the two leading lights together.

President Kenyatta’s snub of the debate was a let-down. Debates are becoming ingrained in the national psyche and those seeking high public office cannot afford to ignore them.

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