Old Wine in New Skins: Kenya’s 2013 Elections and the Triumph of the Ancien Régime

On 4 March 2013 Kenya held transitional elections that were significant
for three reasons. Firstly, they were a test of the country’s institutions
under the new Constitution, which was promulgated in 2010. In 2007
Kenya experienced violently disputed elections, partly because of weak and
dysfunctional institutions not capable of impartially arbitrating political
disputes. Secondly, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto presented a joint
presidential ticket despite having been indicted by the International Criminal
Court as among suspected masterminds of the 2007-8 post-election violence.
Thirdly, Raila Odinga, the loser of the controversial 2007 presidential
election, attempted to succeed the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, through a third
presidential bid. Thus stakes were much higher in 2013 than at any other
election time in Kenya’s independence history. Some reforms under the
new Constitution, the Kikuyu-Kalenjin tribal alliance and the ICC factor
ensured that the elections were relatively violence free. However, as in the
past, the presidential contest was primarily about control of the state by
expediently cobbled together ethnic alliances of self-styled ethno-regional
barons for spoliation opportunities. In this article I argue that the triumph of
the ICC duo was a setback for reform since it ensured continued dominance
of Kenya’s economic and political spheres by the ancien régime. Kenyatta
and Ruto could not countenance reforms because they were beneficiaries
of an unreformed and centralised state. Thus they were bound to frustrate
implementation of the Constitution, which was intended to secure Kenya’s
stability by consolidating democracy.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
Tags: coalition government, election violence, IEBC, Jubilee, Kenya 2013 Elections, Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga