The 2013 Kenya Elections

Report
from NATO Civil-Military Fusion Centre
Published on 14 Feb 2013

Background

Kenyan voters will go to the polls on 04 March 2013, five years after a destabilising election in 2007 led to wide-spread violence that resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 people and the displacement of over 600,000 more. For decades, the political elite in Kenya have manipulated ethnic grievances and tribal affiliations to obtain political advantages, a factor that is believed to be the primary cause of the 2007-2008 post-election violence. A referendum in 2010 established a new constitution and ushered in sweeping devolutionary reforms, including the abolishment of the position of prime minister and the introduction of 47 provincial counties (an increase from the previous count of 7provinces and the capital Nairobi Area). For the first time, voters will elect a bicameral legisla-ture of 394 members and 47 county governors. Additionally, outgoing President Mwai Kibaki is ineligible for a third term, so electors will decide on a new head of state. Leading candidates include cur-rent Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s former president from 1964-1978. If neither politician claims a plurality of the vote, then a runoff is scheduled for April.

International monitors are hopeful the elections will advance gains made by the ratification of the 2010 constitution, continuing “the coun-try’s progress toward becoming a modern democratic state”. However, if the process is marred by a lack of transparency and contested results, it could return the country to infighting and violence that marked the 2007 elections. Furthermore, violent outcomes might destabi-lise the economic, political and security cli-mate throughout the region, a possibility that international governments seek to prevent. In recent months, the Horn of Africa region has experienced political turbulence. Case in point, Ethiopia underwent a transition of power when former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died suddenly and was replaced by Hailemariam Desalegn; in January 2013 a minor coup was attempted in Eritrea; and for the fifth consecutive year, Somalia topped the Failed State Index. Kenya is an important regional power that boasts a GDP growth rate near five per cent. The past two decades have seen unprecedented economic expansion with trading partners outside of Africa, suggesting that the United States, Europe, and China, among others, will closely watch the 2013 polls.

The election margins will almost certainly be close, and experts predict a run-off. To win the presidency outright, a candidate must claim a majority of ballots cast at the national level and 25 per cent of the vote in half of the country’s 47 counties. The election commission has until 11 March, one week after polling stations close, to tally and announce the results. If no candidate receives a majority vote, the top two candidates will face a runoff vote in April, no later than 11 April. As of 04 February, Odinga led the polls with a forty-six per cent approval rating; Kenyatta trailed with a forty per cent rating.