In Kenya, elections have lost their shine | Elections

With less than a month to go until the polls, Kenyans have done well and are actually in the races. After an unwarranted start of hesitation, the country is caught in a raging election fever. You are running has been selected and issued the party manifest. Campaigns are in each other’s sights, governments are playing favorites and the media is absurdly sensationalizing it all. Voters are salivating over promises of a good life with everything from free health and free cash, to amazing new industries exporting cannabis and hyena testicles.

It was a lot different just a few months ago. There was little to the political maneuvering and fervor that characterized past campaigns. John Githongo, a prominent anti-corruption activist and publisher of The Elephant, an online news analysis magazine where I work, described it as an election for nothing in March. “The Kenyans are entering an election that believes in nothing, nothing to stand on,” he wrote. “No big ideas, no plating problems.”

The nomination of Martha Karua as the candidate for the first opposition doyen, Raila Odinga, one of the main candidates in the election, represents the first time a major coalition has selected a woman to participate in the row. his head, and seems to have breathed new life into his previous flagging campaign. A poll conducted after its announcement in mid-May showed the ticket leading the race for the first time. Odinga and Karua are still leading the race with six points, according to the latest polls.

Their main competition for State comes from incumbent Vice President William Ruto, who also chose his life partner in mid-May, choosing Rigathi Gachagua, a businessman and former personal assistant to his step-boss. his cold, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In theory, this should be an easy choice for Kenyans. On the one hand, you have a ticket that combines the two symbols of what Kenyans like to call Second Liberation – the push to liberate the state from the clutches of the brutal kleptocracy that took over the colonial state after upon independence in 1963. Odinga, whose father, Kenya’s first vice president, was detained by the regime of Kenyatta’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, the country’s first president, was himself detained. and tortured by the dictatorship of the second president, Daniel Arap Moi, and was closely associated with promoting the restoration of multi-party democracy, the expansion of rights, and the enactment of a new constitution. Karua, too, has a long track record of fighting authoritarianism as an opposition lawyer and legislator and is considered by many to be one of the few politicians who are not personally corrupt. .

On the other hand, Ruto has been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in connection with the violence that took place after the controversial 2007 elections, in which he sarcastically supported Odinga’s candidacy for president. He is accused of corruption and has yet to explain the source of his huge fortune. His spouse was also a government official during the worst days of the New autocracy.

However, Ruto organized a populist campaign centered on the discontent that many felt after 10 years of Kenyatta’s rule had plunged the country deep into debt and tried to treat the election as a battle. war between the “dynasties” – the kleptocratic families that have dominated the political and economic scene since independence in 1963 – and the “hustlers”, the code for Kenyans they have been impoverished and impoverished. violent. It will be a hard sell for Ruto, who has been in and out of government for two decades, however, unlike Kenyatta and Odinga, he is not a descendant of dynasties. .

But, more than anything, for me, this election is about the so-called good people of Kenyan politics – the progressives who have resisted My dictatorship and the ruling party. , KANU, in the 80s and 90s – came to themselves as hypocrites, pretenders and cheerleaders who abused state power. Instead of change, it is about their initiation into the ways of power. Where years ago they grudgingly or loudly protested against state corruption and abuse of power, today they are actively seeking its endorsement and reveling in its abuses. it.

As Odinga and Karua happily enjoy the benefits of a partisan state, despite the Constitution requiring it to be neutral, and remain silent about their patron Kenyatta bestowing state titles on their relatives. themselves and tried to expropriate land owned by a university and hand it over. for the World Health Organization, it blurred the distinction between them being the reformers and their opponents.

But this is nothing new for struggling Kenyan voters long accustomed to hypocritical politicians altering alliances and stances to suit the prevailing winds. During independence, for example, activists like Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, were happy to work and benefit from the colonial regime to gain power with promises of change once they did. It turned out to be an illusion.

What is new? listless that seems to have infected significant sections of the electorate with many refuse to register as a voter or pledge to support one side or the other. Elections, and especially presidential elections, which for more than 30 years have been seen as the path to democratic and prosperous nirvana, seem to have lost their shine.

This may simply be a reflection of global trends. Follow with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Support, “voter turnout has declined globally since the early 1990s”. One more recent research, announced last year since the slump goes back to the 1960s, due to a generational shift and voter fatigue from the growing number of elections and holding elections. In Kenya, the number of votes cast has increased since the dawn of the millennium, including constitutional referendums, repeat presidential elections, votes for governments and councils. ideological, as well as many by-elections.

Voter turnout, however, has only subsided after the excitement and expectations created by the 2010 Constitution, according to Professor Karuti Kanyinga of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, 18 years before the election. The referendum passed the Constitution, voter turnout never exceeded 70%. And in fact, the lowest voter turnout of the period recorded at the election was perhaps the most consequential: the 2002 election that swept away the KANU dictatorship. Only 57 percent of registered voters participated because of that.

In contrast, the 2010 referendum saw voter turnout of 72%, rising to 85% for the 2013 election and then dropping to a still impressive 79% for the election. The 2017 election was cancelled. So it is possible that the current indifference simply reflects a correction of irrational exaggeration surrounding the 2010 Constitution and the changes it is expected to bring. Perhaps it reflects a perception that, like before 2010, elections remain an unlikely path to real and lasting change.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.

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