Many possible scenarios
Anders Sjögren, NAI researcher and expert on Kenya answers three questions about the elections.
In slightly less than a month, Kenya is having elections. The last elections in 2007 ended in violent conflict. What do you think will happen this time?
Of course, everyone sincerely hopes there will no repeat of either the rigging or the violence, but there are no guarantees. There is so much at stake. The interests are strong and the institutions are weak. Reforms to the political system have been slow and half-hearted.
Raila Odinga is in the lead, and his opponents, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, can’t afford to lose. That creates strong incentives for Uhuru and Ruto not to play by the rules. How? Either by trying to subvert institutions to tilt the game in their favour – and a perceived unjust process of that kind would certainly provoke hostile reaction – or, if they appear to be heading to defeat, they might try to apply the brakes to stop the process. However, it is very difficult to say – there are so many uncertainties surrounding the possible scenarios.
Two of the aspirants have been charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. How does that affect the elections? And what will happen if they win?
For Uhuru and Ruto, the elections are a do-or-die affair. The fact that they are taking part (unless, of course, the courts disqualify them) has shaped the who, what and how of the elections through and through. It’s the main underlying structuring consideration – it has affected everyone’s strategic moves, the alliance building, and so on.
Should they win, the future looks bleak for Kenya. Important countries have declared they’re not going to deal with ICC suspects, and diplomatic contacts will be scaled down. If they win, and there are signs that they are hesitant or hostile about engaging with the ICC or trying to delay or derail the trial in any way, sanctions against them or Kenya are a likely outcome. And even if they do cooperate, prospects for badly needed reforms of the Kenyan state to make it more democratic or effective look remote on their watch.
What would be the best outcome of the election for Kenya in your view?
A free, fair and peaceful election resulting in a Raila Odinga victory and a CORD majority in parliament. That’s a necessary, though obviously not sufficient, step towards reforming the country.