Kenyans Head to the Polls for Historic Vote Pitting Uhuru and Raila

By David Indeje / August 7, 2017

2017 Elections That Defined Democracy in Africa and Going Forward

Kenya goes to the polls for its second General Elections after the promulgation of its Constitution in 2010 to elect its 5th president and fill the expanded political elective offices both at the National and Devolved County Governance structures.

Tuesday’s elections are also the sixth since the institution of multiparty elections.

In June 1982, Kenya was officially declared a one party state by Parliament and the constitution was amended accordingly. Parliamentary elections were held in September 1983 under a single party system for the first time since independence and the 1988 elections reinforced the one party system.

However, in December 1991, Parliament annulled the one party section of the constitution. Consequently, new parties were formed in early 1992 and in December of that year, multiparty democracy was restored and elections were held with several parties participating.

Eight candidates are contesting for the presidency – Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee Party, ODM’s Raila Odinga, Cyrus Jirongo of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Ekuru Aukot of Thirdway Alliance, Abduba Dida of the Alliance for Real Change (ARC), and Independent candidates Joseph Nyagah, Michael Wainaina and Japheth Kavinga.

The seat for County Ward Representative has attracted the most number of candidates totaling 11,857 followed by the position of the member of National Assembly where 1,893 candidates have been cleared to run.

The Senate contest has attracted 256 contestants while 299 women have been cleared to contest for the 47 County Woman Representative posts across the country.

IEBC cleared 210 candidates to vie for various gubernatorial posts across the country.

Read: Electoral Process: The Irony of Integrity in Kenya’s Leadership

Indeed, this is the most competitive elections with 14,550 candidates competing for the 1,882 elected posts of president, governor, senator, women representatives, members of parliament, and members of county assembly. In 2013, 12,776 aspirants competed.

Further, it is the most expensive election ever held with Kshs 49.9 billion expected to be expended by the electoral body, up from Kshs 35.0 billion in 2013, as per the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Report.

“As a nation, we have never been more prepared in terms of electoral governance and oversight, with an independent judiciary, we have taken lessons from the last two elections, which have ended up being contested, and a lot of the electoral matters have been litigated upfront,” Cytonn Investments said on Monday in an investor brief.

NASA final rally at Uhuru Park, Nairobi

As Kenyans head to the polls, the lead-up to contest has been characterized by disagreements over the electoral rules and the impartiality of the electoral body.

Kenya implemented biometric voter registration and identification before its 2013 general elections, but procurement, management, and technical problems led many Kenyans to question the integrity of the electoral commission.

“Nothing kindles democracy’s energies, anxieties, hopes, and frustrations like an election. The quality of an election can spell the difference between a cooking fire and an explosion,” according to the Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 35 ‘Election quality, public trust are central issues for Africa’s upcoming contests.  

Consequently, the country continues to be tagged along ‘tribal lines’ however, Aquiline Tarimo, in his paper, “Politicisation of Ethnic Identities and the Common Good in Kenya”, has stated that, “If ethnic identities are constructively appropriated they could become a national treasure. Ethnic identities are not evil in themselves as it has been portrayed by the forces of colonisation and post-colonial politics. Ethnic identities become harmful when manipulated for self-interest.”

The Conversation, says Kenya’s elections are much more than just a ruthless game of thrones

“Kenya’s electoral politics are not just an elite game of thrones; they are driven by the demands and concerns of ordinary people, trying to navigate their way to the uncertain promised land of development.”

Jubilee party final political campaign rally in Nakuru

Dr. Masha Baraza in the ‘Case Digest on the Law, the Practice and the Jurisprudence  around the 2013 General Election in Kenya’ he says, “The right of every eligible citizen to determine who will represent them in government without encumbrance is a basic cornerstone of any democracy and a prerequisite for social cohesion and solidarity.”

“Elections are an element of within the principle of rule of law; they are human rights events and a core mechanism through which citizens directly express their political will and assert their sovereignty.”

Kenya’s elections are among the most important in Africa.  In the East and Central Africa region, Kenya is the biggest economy.

For instance, the economy is projected to further expand by 5.9 percent in 2017, but growth could be lower if the ongoing drought persists due to the impact of the drought that was witnessed in the first half  and the slowdown in private sector credit is not reversed.

The growth is faster than both Nigeria and South Africa whose growth is projected at 0.8 percent in 2017 for each country according to the National Treasury.

The Brookings Election Spotlight on Kenya are of the view that, “Although the 2013 presidential election was peaceful, many Kenyans remain without hope, distrust the government, and feel marginalized by the policies of Kenyatta’s Jubilee Government.”  

Read: Kenyan Electorate torn between Political Parties, Manifestos and the reality

However, Dr. George Mukundi Wachira, Head, African Union Governance Architecture Secretariat notes that, “Elections are conducted and supervised by man who is all too often prone to error. Of remarkable importance is the question whether a free and fair election implies a flawless one.

“If this is not the case, the question then becomes, ‘How much flaw is enough to nullify an election?’ and ‘What are parameters are engaged in assessing the impact of an irregularity in an election?

IEBC Officials: Commissioner Dr. Rosylne Okombe, Wafula Chebukati (chair) and Ezra Chiloba (CEO) in a past media briefing.

Accuracy, credibility, verifiability of the voter register and its effect on the validity of elections.

Africa Practice, ‘Kenya Election scenarios and timelines’ brief argues that, “uncertainties remain around the likely scenarios and timelines for the polls. With high scope for a contested outcome prompting both legal petitions and political dialogue, there remain credible conditions under which it will take several weeks for a new government to take office and consolidate its position of authority.”

Major pollsters in their findings have differed on who was the favourite to win in the presidency with the race having tightened between President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Poll of poll figures for Jubilee and NASA I Source AfricaPractice

“These elections are expected to be close. Major pollsters indicate a gap of 4 per cent between the candidates, which is within the margin of error,” says Murithi Mutiga, Senior Analyst, Horn of Africa.

Charles Hornsby, author of Kenya; A History since Independence opines that, “The two key factors influencing the likelihood of trouble are the size of the winning margin for the victor and the success or failure of the IEBC in administering the election effectively, without obvious rigging.” 

He adds that, “If the election is well run, turnouts and results reasonable and the margin of victory 5 percent or more, there will still be complaints and localised demonstrations, but they will be modest and limited. If the result is within 2 percent (i.e. 51%-49%) or the election proves an administrative mess and rigging is visible and widespread, the risk of trouble on 10-11 August rises dramatically.”


Cytonn Investments have shown a positive outlook towards the elections.  “It is clear that Kenya is ready for an election from both a legal, operational and oversight perspective.”

“What Kenyans want is a fair, peaceful and credible election; for elections to be free and fair they must be run by way of secret ballot, conducted by an independent body, administered in a transparent, impartial and accountable manner, and free from intimidation, corruption, threats, violence and other improper influence. If this is delivered, Kenyans are likely to accept the outcome and we shall have a peaceful transition to a new Government, or a peaceful continuation of leadership for the incumbent.”

The Head of the African Union Election Observation Mission to Kenya, former South African President Thabo Mbeki together with Ghana’s Former President John Mahama who is leading a 15-member team from Commonwealth nations in pre-election press briefing on Monday reiterated  their calls for a peaceful democratic elections.

“Observer missions want the elections to be peaceful and all leaders have a duty to ensure peace during and after the polls,” said Mbeki. “There are mechanisms to deal with any disputes should there be any. Let’s use them.”

“Whoever wins is a Kenyan what the people need to do is be vigilant to ensure free, fair, elections that express their wish,” said Mahama.

Former US secretary of state John Kerry who is leading the Carter Centre Observer Delegation in the Kenyan elections said it is now up to Kenyans to vote for leaders of their choice.

About David Indeje

David Indeje is a writer and editor, with interests on how technology is changing journalism, government, Health, and Gender Development stories are his passion. Follow on Twitter @David_Indeje David can be reached on: (020) 528 0222 / Email: [email protected]

View other posts by David Indeje

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