An exposed electoral management body, protecting individual and business interests, and the involvement of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in succession politics, could lead to contestation of the outcome of the country’s August General Election.
In a report released early this week by the International Crisis Group (ICG), Kenya’s election results for the presidency this year may be more contested than in 2002 and 2013, when a new president was coming on.
The report titled “Kenya’s 2022 Election: High Stakes”, states that the August 9 polls could be disputed in court. This may either indicate more confidence in the courts or less trust in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Citing the 2007/8 post-election violence, ICG says elite polarisation, especially the rift between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto have contributed to perceptions that the security services may not play a neutral role in the electoral period.
Other factors such as inequality and Kenya’s deteriorating economy create the risk that unemployed youth could be recruited into gangs.
This week, four candidates were cleared to run for president, with polls showing that Mr Ruto and former prime minister Raila Odinga are leading the race.
“Of perhaps greatest concern, Ruto, Odinga and Kenyatta all command significant voter support, and none appears willing to endure the exclusion from Kenya’s patronage-driven politics that electoral defeat entails,” states the report.
“The combination of high intra-elite tensions and weak institutions means that the outcome of the vote may well be contested if either of the main candidates rejects official results, claiming he has been cheated. A prime scenario for unrest would be if one or another group of Kenya’s political leaders decides to play on existing ethnic and economic cleavages to drive voters into the streets rather than concede defeat,” added the report.
The report says the IEBC has not adopted all the prescriptions of commissions of inquiry that reviewed weeks of election-related mass violence occurring in 2007 and 2008, where more than 1100 people were killed and at least 600,000 others displaced.