The Kenyan 2013 elections: some preliminary observations, by Anders Sjögren

After five days of waiting following the general Kenyan elections which took place on 4th March 2013, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Isaak Hassan, on the 9th March declared Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Alliance the winner and President elect. According to IEBC figures, Uhuru got 50,07 % of the votes – just slightly more than 4000 votes above the threshold of the required simple majority. Contrary to repeatedly stated fears, these elections were by and large free from violence. Thus, there was no repeat of January 2008. The process however did invoke strong memories of December 2007 – this was another failed election.

A few hours after the declaration of Uhuru as the winner, his closest competitor, Raila Odinga of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) gave a speech in which he rejected the results, due to various forms of alleged vote rigging. CORD will now take its complaints to the Supreme Court, which has fourteen days to reach a decision. Until the Court has pronounced itself, it is probably wise to be careful in analysing the results, as the authenticity of this is uncertain. However, even preliminary observations suggest that this was a poorly organised and managed election. Not only did the tallying process suffer from major technical and administrative failures, there are also strong indications of quite a number of irregularities and breaking of electoral laws.

Should the Supreme Court nullify the results, different consequences are possible, depending on the evidence presented and how the case is argued. One possibility would be fresh elections to be held within 60 days following the ruling. Should the Court however uphold the results, Jubilee will have a firm grip on political power, controlling not only the executive but also the legislature with a majority in both parliament and the Senate. If that should turn out to be the case, the most immediate major challenge will be the ICC cases, since both Uhuru and his running mate William Ruto are charged with crimes against humanity in that court. Their respective trials have been postponed: Ruto’s until May and Uhuru’s until July.

There are two major political dimensions to the cases. One concerns a possible Jubilee government’s relations with foreign countries, of which the US and the EU have stated that there will not be business as usual with ICC suspects in power. Given Kenya’s regional economic and geo-political significance, however, that statement is likely to be given pragmatic interpretation for as long as Uhuru and Ruto continue to cooperate with the ICC. They most probably will, at least for as long as the cases are not likely to be anywhere near a guilty verdict, or don’t make governing difficult to the extent of posing serious challenges to their political control.

The domestic political dimension has so far not been very much discussed, but may turn out to becoming equally significant. Uhuru and Ruto campaigned together on a ticket that to a large extent was anti-ICC based. Their cases are however different, and may produce witness statements against either of the two by individuals belong to the other person’s camp. Once the trials start, every man will have to fight for himself, and a fallout between the two (and between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin populations that Uhuru and Ruto, respectively, represent and claim to have reunited after the 2008 violence) is a distinct possibility.

Anders Sjögren is a researcher at The Nordic Africa Institute and Department of political science at Stockholm University. Sjögren was present in Nairobi during the elections.

This entry was posted in Election violence, Elections, Governance and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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