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The Kenyan Elections of 2013: A Triumph of Democracy?

27th May 2013

CGHR Research Group

The Kenyan Elections of 2013: A Triumph of Democracy?

Dr Nic Cheeseman (University of Oxford)

According to President Kenyatta, the recent elections were a ‘triumph of democracy’ – a phrase carried without criticism by many western media houses. Yet in many ways the elections were a disaster. New technologies introduced to prevent rigging failed comprehensively. The counting and tabulation of results took way longer than expected and the results reveal a number of significant discrepancies that throw the credibility of the election into doubt. As a result, the 40-50% of the country that did not vote for Uhuru Kenyatta feels cheated – and worse, believes the institutions ushered in under the new constitution have failed them and cannot be trusted to make fair decisions. Based on first-hand experience, the paper documented the shortcomings of the election and explains why the polls remained peaceful despite their many defects. It also considered the state of Kenyan democracy and the capacity for institutional reforms to promote democratization in Africa. Despite the increasing politicization of the Electoral Commission and Supreme Court, it concluded that new constitutional provisions encouraged political leaders to play by the rules of the game – and will continue to reshape Kenyan politics going forwards.