The thin line between electoral credibility and political stability in Kenya



After a Supreme Court ruling that overturned Kenya’s August 8 presidential election, the country now finds itself in a difficult moral situation between political stability and electoral credibility.

On the one hand, the decision which ordered a new presidential election was a victory for the democratic process around the world. The court found that the Kenya Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission was in violation of constitutional procedure. He also found that the commission had violated the electoral law and in doing so damaged the credibility of the election.

On the other hand, the court ruling brought the country into a period of political instability. Where he would have closed the chapter of the 2017 electoral cycle, he is now preparing for a new election scheduled for October 26.

Kenyans now find themselves in a difficult situation, made even more uncomfortable by the demands of Raila Odinga and his National Super Alliance. The opposition insists that certain conditions, including the reconstitution of the electoral commission and the reprint of the main election documents, must be met before the October 26 elections are held.

The opposition’s firm stance could lead to a postponement of the elections. It could also happen if OT-Morpho, the French biometrics company that supplied the electoral commission with its electronic voting system, fails to prepare a new system on time. It is stated that no.

If indeed the key problem with the last election was that the voting system was not “simple and verifiable” as required by law, then all delays could be interpreted as being in the interest of free, fair, credible and transparent elections.

But for those who claim that no electoral process can be perfect and that the August 8 poll was marred only by minor and unintentional errors, the question then arises: what is most important , electoral credibility or political stability?

Electoral credibility

The Supreme Court gave priority to electoral credibility by invalidating the result of the presidential election on the grounds that the electoral commission had committed illegalities and irregularities.

In doing so, he broke ranks with foreign election observation missions which had concluded that the presidential election was credible. Overall, the Supreme Court ruling was a victory for Kenyans and the rule of law. The court took the opportunity to verify the transparency of the electoral process and to define the parameters of a credible election.

But his decision raised questions of its own. For example, the court ruled that the electoral commission did not strictly follow the electoral procedure as defined by law. It also ruled that there had been tampering with the electronic management system of electors of the commission. But he mandated the same commission to proceed with a new election within 60 days.

Because the court gave no direction on reconstituting the commission, petitioner Odinga and defendant President Uhuru Kenyatta are now at an impasse over who should stay on the commission.

Political stability

Those who disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling see the court’s ruling as a subversion of the will of the Kenyan people. For them, the decision was a destabilizing force that did not reflect the decision of the people.

What gives credence to this argument is the fact that Kenya is considered to be the economic center of East Africa. If the country does not return to normalcy as quickly as possible, there will be ripple effects, especially economic ones, throughout the region.

In addition, Kenya is in a precarious situation as the executive is in conflict with the judiciary. Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party has a majority in both Houses of Parliament. It is therefore in its capacity to limit the independence of the judiciary if it continues to feel aggrieved by the decision of the Supreme Court.

This could happen through a parliamentary referendum in accordance with Article 256 of the Constitution and would involve members of parliament deciding to amend the constitution without a popular vote.

But by far the most pressing threat to Kenya’s continued political stability is the possibility that the Supreme Court has created a situation in which Kenya could remain in electoral mode indefinitely. Nothing prevents the filing of a new petition if one of the candidates contests the results of the next ballot.

If we look at neighboring Rwanda to Kenya, we see an example of a head of state who arguably favored a semblance of political stability over the credibility of elections. Paul Kagame was recently re-elected for the third time. Some argue that his rule benefited Rwandans because the country has shown better socio-economic performance than most African countries.

But there the tensions simmer and in the absence of electoral credibility, the political stability of Rwanda can be on edge.

Rethinking Kenya’s Electoral System

The Kenya case raises questions about elections in Africa and whether they are a force for political stability or instability. I would say Kenya has made great strides in improving its electoral credibility since its disastrous 2007 election.

In conclusion, electoral credibility and political stability are not mutually exclusive.

There should be a positive correlation between democracy and improving the well-being of a state and its people. But in a country like Kenya with more than 40 tribes, the most populous tribes will still benefit from their voting power, while the less populous find it difficult to compete. The system is simply not working in their favor. So it would appear that they are locked out – not by choice but by circumstances.

So, is a majority, “winner takes it all” system right for an ethnically diverse society like that of Kenya?

Maybe not. I am convinced that we must reinvent democratic electoral practices in Africa. Kenya should take advantage of recent events to clean up its institutions and electoral system. If not, future polls will continue to offer a diversion point between electoral credibility and tenuous political stability.

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