Kenya's election campaign was a good advertisement for democracy. While Kenyans fear political polarisation along ethnic lines, this was a hard fought and vibrant campaign. The President was under pressure because he has disappointed, particularly on corruption, having had a clear mandate for change in 2002. The opposition ran a vigorous campaign, but was not promising a fundamental change of direction on economic or social policy.
But elections are also very much about how the votes are counted.
While reports on irregularities and complaints are still coming in. But it is already clear that the re-election of President Kibaki lacks credibility in Kenya, across Africa and internationally. Kenya has gone from one of the possible success stories of African democracy to a violent crisis which risks doing much to undermine its reputation for stability and gradual progress.
There can be no doubt, from the parliamentary results, that this was a 'change' election in Kenya. The Presidential contest was widely tipped as a knife-edge race, and may well have been closer than the parliamentary rout of government ministers. However, the scale of the difference between the parliamentary and presidential voting patterns is hard to credit or explain.
It is the coincidence of so many issues which has undermined the democratic credibility of the declared Presidential result: the lack of agreement on independent election commissioners; the delaying of the results from Kibaki's electoral stronghold; with specific irregularities in turnout which would support the theory that the delays were to find out how many votes were needed to win. The hastily rushed inauguration and the blackout of broadcast news in Kenya after the result have fuelled the crisis atmosphere.
The US government was slow to adapt its standard congratulatory message, but is now expressing concerns similar to those of the EU election monitors. The Commonwealth observers gave a mixed interim report - but have yet to give a verdict on the counting controversies which are now the central issue.
There will be a need for reconciliation among all parties. This may be difficult for an opposition with grounds to feel that it has been cheated. The hope must be that the parliamentary result and presidential controversy means that there is a need to negotiate some sort of effective power-sharing deal. But international pressure on a President who lacks legitimacy will be needed to achieve this.
The best round-up of news and commentary from inside Kenya and across Africa is on the AllAfrica.com site's Kenya pages.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Kenya's democracy crisis
Posted by Sunder Katwala at 7:23 PM
Labels: Africa, AllAfrica.com, democracy, Kenya
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
As the Washington clocks strike twelve on 20th January 2009, listen carefully and you might just hear a swooshing sigh of relief travel around the world. The Bush Presidency will not leave the legacy its architects intended. But a critique of what should have been done differently since 2001 is not enough. This blog is about the new ideas which can create a 'new multilateralism' to tackle the global challenges we face.
Post a Comment