Senate Bill proposes use of nicknames on ballot papers

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The date is August 9, 2022.

Kenyans have turned up in their millions at polling stations all over the country to elect new leaders that will, hopefully, not take them through another five years of political barrage.

At the polling booth, something that has never been witnessed before in the country is coming to pass. Voters are selecting their preferred leaders on ballot papers based on names such as ‘Baba’, ‘Hustler’, ‘Sultan’, ‘Minji Minji’, ‘MaDVD’ and ‘Weta’.

This dream may come to reality if a senator’s proposed Bill will make it through all necessary legislative stages for it to become law.

Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina has proposed amendments to the Elections Act so that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) allows politicians to use their nicknames as official names on the ballot.

In his Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Mr Maina refers to these names as “popular” names and goes ahead to explain that it is “a name which a candidate is known to the public but which does not appear in the candidate’s national identity card or passport”.


The Bill which is still in its infant stages was published in the Kenya Gazette on August 14 and is still open to public scrutiny as it awaits introduction at the Senate.

“Currently, the law only permits the use of a candidate’s official name as it appears in the register of voters and in the candidate’s identification documents. A candidate who wishes to have his or her popular name included on a ballot paper has to go through the lengthy process of officially changing his or her name through the procedures set out under the Registration of Persons Act, Cap 107, the Registration of Documents Act, Cap. 285 and the Rules and Regulations made under the two Acts,” he states.

At the moment, some of the politicians who have persevered this “rigorous” process of changing their names are Nairobi Governor Gideon Mbuvi Kioko (Mike Sonko), his Kiambu counterpart Ferdinand Ndung’u Waititu (Baba Yao), Muranga Governor Francis Mwangi (Mwangi wa Iria) and former Mukurweini MP Godfrey Kariuki Mwangi (Kabando wa Kabando).

Others are Kiambu Senator Paul Njoroge Kimani (Kimani Wamatangi), Thika Town MP Patrick Kimani Wainaina (Jungle), Kabete MP James Githua Kamau (Wamacukuru) and his Embakasi South counterpart Paul Ongili Owino (Babu Owino).

Mr Maina defends his Bill saying that its ultimate goal is to enhance free and fair elections by enabling electorates to choose their preferred candidates without confusion as well as protect candidates’ rights to free expression.

“Name recognition (is) an important aspect of a free and fair election and should be enabled to the fullest extent. It ensures that a voter easily identifies his or her preferred candidate on a ballot and therefore votes in the way he or she intended. Candidates should therefore not be unduly restricted in the way they present themselves to the electorate on the ballot and other election related material,” he explains.

Over the years, a number of politicians have acquired nicknames from their supporters and gone ahead to popularise them nationally albeit not making them official names.

The include Deputy President William Ruto who never shies away from being referred to as Hustler, ODM leader Raila Odinga (Baba), Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru (Minji Minji), Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho (Sultan) and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula (Weta).

At the moment, some supporters of ODM’s flagbearer in the Kibra by-elections Benard Otieno Okoth may require sensitisation to be informed that they will not find the name “Imran” on ballot papers when they turn up to vote on November 7.

  • A candidate’s popular name may be included on a ballot paper for purposes of a party primary or an election.
  • A candidate shall apply to the IEBC, in a prescribed form, for the inclusion of his/her popular name no later than twenty-one days before the submission of names in the case of a party candidate, and at the time of submission for an independent candidate.
  • The IEBC shall, within seven days of receipt of an application, notify the candidate of its decision in writing.
  • Where the use of a candidate’s popular name is approved, the Commission shall issue the candidate a certificate to prove that it has authorised the use of the popular name and the candidate’s popular name shall appear on a nomination or election ballot paper in the format approved by the Commission, on the documents relating to the approval and on any other document originating from the candidate, candidate’s party or the Commission.

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