Electoral Integrity Issues Ahead of Kenya’s General Election in August 2017

1. Raila Odinga won the 2007 presidential election, at least according to aggregate results from media houses. On a related note, President Kenyatta will most likely face a stiff challenge from a unified opposition, a fact that will put the integrity of the outcome in the August 8th presidential election front and center. Which is why it is a little scary that with just eight months left Kenyans are still fighting over the impartiality and preparedness of the country’s electoral management body, IEBC. It is also worth noting that there is a non-zero probability that Raila Odinga will not be on the ballot this August; and that this would do very little to reduce the likelihood of electoral violence if the polls lack integrity.

2. Kenyan governors have rejected the proposed manual backups for the electronic voter verification system in the August 8, 2017 General Election. This issue threatens to plunge the country into a period of heightened political tensions over the next several weeks, with the opposition having promised street demos if the government doesn’t soften its stance. There is still hope that cooler heads will prevail in the Senate and deliver a consensus outcome.

3. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is about to be reconstituted. Ethnic Regional balance issues remain. These are rather silly. Ezra Chiloba, the current IEBC CEO, is a very capable man and it would be a shame if he were to lose his job simply because of the lottery of birth.

4. KPMG will audit the voter register which currently has 15.85 million listed voters. Through a court challenge the opposition has temporarily stopped the award of the tender to KMPG. CORD is claiming that not enough stakeholders were involved in the tendering process. I suspect that the real reason is that CORD does not trust KPMG to do an honest job. It bears stating that private firms, including big-name multinationals, have historically not been above being compromised by sectional political interests in Kenya.

On a side note, most observers seem to think that the biggest political career on the line in 2017 is that of Raila Odinga. I disagree. The biggest political career on the line in 2017 is that of Deputy President William Ruto. Politically speaking, Ruto is between a rock and a hard place. He will wield immense political power, and have control over his political future, right up until the August 8th election is decided. Thereafter he will lose control over his political future.

If Kenyatta wins, he will immediately become a marked man. Five more years as number two will definitely grant him access to even greater financial resources and ability to bolster his political power. But it will also invite the envy of fellow elites wary of having to face a powerful and self-disciplined politician like only Ruto can be. In my view, Ruto has the potential to be Odinga and Moi rolled into one — i.e. fanatical mass support and incredible self-discipline and work ethic. Needless to say, this scares a lot of Kenya’s fat cats who’ve grown used to the absentee-landlord nightwatchman presidency of Kenyatta. There is also the small matter that Kenyatta’s base will likely not support Ruto in 2022 for this same reason.

If Kenyatta loses Ruto is toast. The music will stop. The cash spigot will be turned off. His ties to voters and grassroots leaders — which at the moment is almost purely transactional and dependent on incredible levels of personal generosity — will most certainly evaporate. His political base will likely be carved up by rivals, with Bomet’s Ruto and Gideon Moi hiving off their separate chunks for use as leverage for political favors and financial resources from Nairobi.

Ruto’s best chance at winning in 2022, IFF Kenyatta wins this year, is to convince Kenyatta to step down before his second term expires. That way Ruto can serve the remainder of Kenyatta’s term and run in 2022 as an unbeatable incumbent president. Show me a Kenyatta associate who would want to see this happen and I’ll show you a liar.

Of course there is also the possibility that Ruto looks down the game tree, does not like what he sees, and decides to make this year’s election a little more interesting than most people anticipate.

 

State of the Presidential Race in Kenya’s 2013 Elections

UPDATE:

Since this post went up Musalia Mudavadi joined the UhuRuto coalition. This sets the stage for a real two horse race for the presidency between Raila Odinga and either Mudavadi or Uhuru Kenyatta. It is very likely that Mudavadi will run as a compromise candidate due to the charges Uhuru is facing at the ICC. This development, considering Kenya’s ethnic arithmetic, essentially gives the Uhuru camp a head start ahead of the March 2013 presidential elections. Whatever happens, this promises to be a very interesting and close presidential election.

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The presidential race in Kenya’s 2013 elections is beginning to take shape. Yesterday Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto unveiled a political pact that will see them run on a joint ticket, with Mr. Kenyatta at the top of the ticket. Messrs Uhuru and Kenyatta both have pending cases at the ICC on charges that they were behind the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007; leaving 1300 death and more than 300,000 displaced. This has led some to dub their joint platform the “ICC ticket,”  since many see the union of the two as solely driven by their joint desire to earn immunity from prosecution by the ICC once they secure the presidency.

uhuru

Uhuru Kenyatta

The second big coalition will see former allies turned foes and then allies – Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka – come together. Mr. Musyoka is the sitting Vice President while Mr. Odinga is the Prime Minister. The latter is believed by many to have been the winner of the disputed 2007 presidential election. The electoral commission at the time said it did not know who won the election and declared President Kibaki reelected, sparking two months of violence across the country.

The third potential political grouping might gravitate around Odinga’s former deputy, Mr. Musalia Mudavadi. Mr. Mudavadi has been rumored to be in talks with several smaller parties, including those of Peter Kenneth, Raphael Tuju, among others.

Raila Odinga

Raila Odinga

The latest developments will make for an interesting race moving forward. The ethnic arithmetic involved – Kenyans vote largely along ethnic lines – will make for a very close race (More on this soon). Messrs Odinga and Kenyatta are the clear front-runners, with the former having a slight lead in the most recent opinion polls. The constitution requires the president elect to win 50 percent plus one votes, making it very likely that there will be a runoff between the top two contenders after the first round. The ethnic calculations makes Odinga, a Luo, the likely winner in case of a runoff (Uhuru, a Kikuyu, is the son of Kenya’s first president. The current president, Mwai Kibaki, is also a Kikuyu.) But Mr. Kenyatta might still win in the first round.

The biggest uncertainty moving forward will be the candidature of both Uhuru and Ruto. Following the opening of their cases at the ICC they had to resign as cabinet ministers. Already there is a petition in court seeking to bar them from running in the upcoming elections on grounds that their integrity is questionable. The constitution requires only individuals of the highest integrity to be eligible to run for office (It is hard to see how any Kenyan politician will avoid having at least one strike against their candidature).

The supreme court may eventually bar Uhuru and Kenyatta from running – the talk in the street is that if they are unfit to be mere cabinet ministers then they should also not occupy the two highest offices in the country. Their supporters obviously disagree. In their rallies “UhuRuto” have played the nationalist card, insisting that not foreigners (read the ICC) but Kenyans will decide who will be their next president. It is still unclear what course of action they and their supporters would take were they to be barred from running.

More on this soon.