What’s past is prologue. Which is why it is great that the folks over at The Elephantare reminding Kenyans of events that marked the disastrous 2007 General Election
Here are some excerpts:
On the poll numbers ahead of the December 2007 vote:
Odinga was consistently polling well shy of a majority but ahead of Moi’s 1992 and 1997 numbers, with Kibaki trailing by a few points. As the election date closed in, the race tightened a bit, but the scenario did not reverse, and then ODM opened up a bit more of a lead. Although at the last minute the Gallup organisation of the US came in and did a late poll showing Kibaki trailing by only two points in the national vote – this was trumpeted by Ranneberger as showing the race as “too close to call” – the firms regularly polling the race continued to show Kibaki trailing beyond the margin of error. This included both the reputable Steadman and Strategic pollsters that had had a long relationship with the USAid IRI programme dating back to its inception in the 1990s, including the exit polls from 2002, 2005 and again for 2007.
On the colossal cluelessness of the then U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger:
The ambassador told me that Saturday that “people are saying” that Raila Odinga, ahead in the polls for president as the vote was nearing, could lose his own Langata parliamentary constituency (which under the existing system would disqualify him from becoming president even if he got the most votes nationally). This was “out of the blue” for me because I certainly was not aware of anyone who thought that. Odinga’s PNU opponent Stanley Livando had made a big splash and spent substantial money when he first announced his candidacy, but he had not seemed to get obvious traction in the race. Naturally, I wondered who the “people” Ranneberger was referring to were. Ranneberger said that a Raila loss in Langata would be “explosive” …..
The Kenyan Constitution allows for popular (extra-legislative) amendment initiatives, as long as the petitioner can collect at least one million signatures. The Okoa Kenya campaign is one such initiative, but driven primarily by the main opposition alliance, CORD. In the piece I seek to answer two key questions:
…….. (i) how do constitutional popular amendment provisions impact institutional stability?; And (ii) can such provisions maintain their legitimacy when captured by mainstream political parties already represented in key state institutions?
The answers to the first question speak to the dangers of populism. Democratic stability necessarily requires institutional barriers to regular changes of the basic rules of the game (i.e. constitutions), as well as checks on populism. Therefore, by exposing constitutional changes to “every-day politics”, extra-legislative origination of constitutional amendments (under ordinary circumstances) may pose a risk to the very foundations of democratic stability.
The answers to the second question speak to the original intent of popular amendment provisions. Given their extra-legislative character and the notion that they are supposed to preserve popular sovereignty, it is unclear whether popular amendment provisions maintain their integrity when captured by mainstream political parties that are supposed to operate within the legislature. In other words, the potential exploitation of such provisions to circumvent the outcomes of legislative elections may derogate the electoral process itself. Elections should have consequences for both the ruling and opposition parties.
The long silence, dear readers, is because I actually got work to do at my internship over the last few days. That and my brief trip to Zanzibar and the rather unreliable internet we have at the office thanks to our ISP (name withheld).
But while I was away I started reading three excellent books: Wangari Maathai’s The Challenge for Africa, Michela Wrong’s It’s Our Turn to Eat and Jean Oi’s Rural China Takes Off. I like Maathai’s frank take on the many challenges facing the African continent. I wish she were as involved these days on advocacy issues as she was back in the day – but may be even firebrands like this one get jaded after some point. Wrong’s book is a reminder to all who want to change Africa and Africans that it takes more than idealism to do the job. I am loving it. Oi’s book is about how local governments in China managed to break the cycle of underdevelopment to engineer the economic miracle that is the Asian giant.
I have a little over a week at my internship and will soon be posting a piece on my take on the state of the civil society movement in Kenya.