2013 General Elections: A Portrait From Kenya


By Dennis Onyango Otieno

On the 4th March 2013 millions of Kenyans crossed the Rubicon as they queued to vote for their preferred candidates in a catalog of elective positions. The positions vied for were that for the president, governors and senators, members of parliament, women representatives and county representatives.

This election was unprecedented in Kenyan 50 year electoral history and was held under the umbrella of a new constitution voted for by Kenyans in an August 4th referendum in 2010. The Constitution was passed by 67% of Kenyans and promulgated on 27th August 2010. The major thrust of this new Constitution was the separations of power among the three arms of government. The three arms of government are the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) under its chairman Isaack Hassan was the body conducting the elections. IEBC was founded by the Constitution of Kenya in 2011 and replaced its predecessor the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK). IEBC is responsible for conducting or supervising referenda and elections to any elective body or office established by the Constitution and any other elections as prescribed by an Act of Parliament.

The voters numbering 12,221,053 according to IEBC truncated their sleep, braved the scorching sun to exercise their rights to vote. The voters spoke via the ballot and after the exercise we had a president-elect, 47 governors – elect, 47 senators – elect, 290 members of parliament elect, 47 women representatives-elect and 47 county representatives-elect. The turnout of 86% of the registered voters was a historical landmark.

Our elections were characterized by the usual brouhaha that accompanies any democratic electoral process. There were a catalog of campaign gimmicks, innuendos, propagandas, decoys and Trojan horses that were designed by the campaign managers and political strategists. The two leading “horses”, CORD and Jubilee attempted to paint gruesome pictures of each other with the intention to convince the voters that their respective candidates were the epitome of the ideal candidates.

A post mortem of the Kenyan elections reveals some salient factors that emerged. These factors include but are not limited to genealogy, money, ethnic balkanization, sycophantic symbiosis, female emancipation fallacy, the running mate conundrum, cultural tyranny, integrity or lack of, presidential debate, the social media, and the Dida effect.

The significance of the surname was very evident during the election. The Jubilee presidential candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta was the son of the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta while his counterpart from Cord, Raila Odinga was the son of the first Vice President and the doyen of opposition politics in Kenya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

It has been mentioned that both leading political parties spent in excess of Ksh 10 billion each in funding their campaign strategies and teams. This is a manifestation of money power in Kenyan politics

Ethnic balkanization
The pre-election coalitions were majorly arrived at after an ethnic calculus. The Jubilee coalitions presidential contestant and running mate were members of the Agikuyu and the Kalenjin tribes respectively while their counterparts were from the Luo and the Kamba tribes. It is important to note that these tribes form the top five ethnic groups in population terms according to the 2009 census conducted in Kenya. Cultural tyranny is the off shoot of these coalitions

Sycophantic symbiosis
Sycophantic symbiosis was quite evident in Luo Nyanza. This is the phenomenon whereby your political destiny is determined by your loyalty to the tribal kingpin in your region. This scenario played out in other regions as well but to a lesser extent.

Female emancipation fallacy
The number of elected female leaders elected as members of parliament was 16 out of a possible 290. None was chosen to be the president, governor or senator. Notwithstanding is the fact that the majority of registered voters is of the female gender. There appears to be a cultural prejudice that is pervasive in Kenya.

The running mate conundrum
The presidential contestants deeply agonized about who their deputies will be. Some chose regional kingpins, others went for the youth whilst others choose to have running mates of different genders.

Integrity or lack of
A section of the candidates for all elective positions were facing pending court cases. The voters it seems separated the candidates from their roles as defendants in the court cases. The candidates maximized their constitutional right to vie for the elective posts.

The Social Media
Internet memes were created by tech enthusiasts to help propel the messages of the candidates. These memes were in form of images, hyperlinks, videos, pictures, websites, and words. They memes were mainly propagated via Twitter and Facebook, the two major social interaction websites with the majority of subscribers in Kenya.

The “Dida Effect”
It took two presidential debates to make Mohamed Abduba Dida to emerge number five in the presidential contest. This is significant as relatively lesser known Dida had presented his papers to IEBC approximately a month to the election date of March 4th. This is also quite telling when compared to the other presidential contestants like James Ole Kiyiapi, Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth who had spent close to a year on the campaign trail.

Technology took a front seat in the 2013 general elections. The political parties led the way by installing auto cues that were used during the Manifesto launches. The social media especially Twitter and Face book were extensively by the candidates and their strategists to deliver images and messages to the masses. The television stations constructed state of the art studios fully equipped with top of the range touch screens to help in the analysis of the results. In fact Jubilee’s presidential running mate William Ruto coined the slogan “Digital” vs “Analog”, as a way to convince the masses that Jubilee was technology-centric.

Follow Dennis @onyangojunior
The writer is a strategy consultant at Transglobal Consultants Ltd

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