Every five years, Kenya holds elections to pick new political leadership. Changes in political viewpoints of prominent and rising politicians affect many aspects of society. This is the circumstance since 2002.
No major party has ever existed without forming an alliance or coalition. There was no change in this year’s elections. After the most recent election, where William Ruto was declared winner of the presidential elections, it was contested at the Supreme Court. The apex court will give its verdict by Monday. This is a tremendous accomplishment and has nonetheless created a new chapter in Kenya’s democratic process.
Participation was lower in the most recent election. As a change in administration policy is anticipated during transition or succession elections, more voter turnout and involvement is anticipated. It seems that Kenyans were less motivated to vote this time around, either owing to a lack of civic education provided by the electoral commission or unhappiness with the existing it’s leadership.
Even in the strongholds of the two leading candidates, Azimio la Umoja’s Raila Odinga and Kenya Kwanza Alliance’s William Ruto, turnout was about 65 per cent in the majority of locations.
Compared to the 2017 succession election, which had a 34 per cent turnout, Kenyans are unsatisfied with the present crop of politicians and want to see fresh faces in national leadership. In the first 72 hours of vote counting, the two top presidential contenders polled at 49 per cent, respectively. The victor was elected with a razor-thin margin of victory.
On the other hand, several independent candidates were elected to different electoral offices, even in certain parties’ strongholds. This is a sign of voter discontent with the ideology of parties, which lacked ambitious and progressive manifestos.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s decision to post all Forms 34A and 34B (presidential result declaration forms) on their public portal was an effort to increase electoral transparency, particularly in light of the 2017 Supreme Court ruling that voided the presidential results. Using the forms, one could independently tally and determine the actual outcome.
To demonstrate anti-establishment vote, in Mt Kenya, where the departing President hails from, many voters chose his deputy, Ruto, in opposition to his pick for successor, Odinga. In a country where people vote along ethnic lines, this was a significant expression of opposition to President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose administration is blamed for the high cost of living.
This is also a sign of the transition from ethno-politics to issue-based politics, with Ruto’s team advocating economic resurrection for low-income citizens and Odinga’s team advocating reform of state institutions and a war on corruption.
In terms of development strategy and national leadership, the 2022 elections will decide the nation’s destiny for decades to come. Regardless, Kenya must keep an eye on its ever-increasing public debt, which comprises 46 per cent of its GDP as of 2015.
Moreover, 42 per cent of Kenyans still live below the poverty line, which is defined as Sh100 a day. Access to healthcare, secondary education, security and clean water is still a luxury for millions of Kenyans. Still, a typical Kenyan pays bribes at least 16 times a month. And due to corruption, one-third of Kenya’s overall government budget is unaccounted for. Where is the money is going?
The new administration will have a full in-tray after inauguration of the new president. There will be little time for honeymoon or even celebrations. It will be work from first day in office for an expectant electorate.
Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer based in Brampton Canada