On March 4, 2013, a record 12 million Kenyans participated peacefully in the first elections since post-election violence in 2007 and 2008 resulted in 1,500 deaths and the displacement of more than 600,000. Despite some flaws in the electoral process, domestic and international election observers characterized the polls as mostly credible. The elections marked the first polls since the passage of a new constitution in August 2010, which introduced sweeping changes to the political system, including the creation of a new devolved system of government that transfers authority for many government functions from the national level to 47 newly created counties; reduced presidential powers; the introduction of a bicameral system; the introduction of majority and minority parties in the national assembly; a more defined separation of powers between the three branches of government; electoral reforms; a restructured judiciary; security sector and land reforms; affirmative action for under-represented groups; and an expanded bill of rights.
Many political and logistical obstacles will have to be overcome to ensure the successful implementation of the constitution and associated legislation, especially during the transition to devolved government. The success of devolution in Kenya will depend on the extent to which political leaders understand and respond to citizens’ concerns, share information freely, solicit feedback about their own performance, and respect the rights of minority populations. While progress has been made to provide some of the necessary foundations for devolution, the post-election period has been marked by political polarization, and the transition is now taking place amid controversies over the roles and responsibilities of the devolved government structures. Still, a majority of Kenyans remain optimistic that devolution will address many of their most deep-seated political, social, and economic grievances; however, the ongoing disagreements may temper these expectations.
Ahead of the March 2013 elections, NDI helped Kenya’s major political parties build consensus on issues of national importance, engage in dialogue with each other and the election commission, comply with the new constitution, and enhance their ability to represent citizens’ interests. NDI’s assistance has helped political parties improve their understanding of the needs and priorities of Kenyan citizens to develop representative, issue-based policy platforms.
NDI has contributed to the constitutional implementation process by supporting the participation of political parties and civil society organizations in discussions on what should be included in new legislation being debated in parliament. The Institute supported improved communications between political party leadership and the electoral commission during the reform process through the creation of political party liaison committees (PPLC). The PPLCs have been established nationally and in each of the 47 counties and provide a venue for regular dialogue on contentious issues during constitutional implementation and the 2013 electoral process.
In the post-election period, NDI is working with parties at the national and county level to improve their ability to represent the interests of constituents, strengthen internal party democracy through the development of county level party branches, support political parties to implement reforms in line with the transition to devolution, and facilitate inter-party cooperation and dialogue.
Women and Youth Participation
Kenya’s new constitution includes a number of provisions to encourage the inclusion of traditionally marginalized groups in political and electoral processes. NDI is providing assistance to domestic civil society organizations and political parties to encourage compliance with the new constitution and enhance participation of these groups.
NDI supported the formation of the Inter-Party Youth Forum (IPYF) in 2009 to provide a national platform to promote constructive, peaceful political participation among youth across party lines. IPYF, the first organization of its kind in Kenya, brings together youth representatives from all major political parties, and enjoys the strong support and encouragement of party leadership. At the 2012 IPYF national youth conference in Nairobi, 950 young people pledged to uphold peace and tolerance leading up to March 2013 polls. With NDI assistance, IPYF has created a secretariat at the national level, conducted outreach activities reaching thousands of youth across the country, and launched IPYF branches in 20 counties. In the post-election period, IPYF is focused on helping youth understand their role in devolved government structures, promote cohesion and integration of youth within and across parties, and helping youth conduct advocacy and play a role in policy development at the county level.
NDI is also working to strengthen women’s political participation in electoral and political processes. The Institute helped women candidates share their platforms through radio programs during the nomination period for the March 4 polls. Forty-five of these women were nominated by their political parties and nine went on to be elected. NDI’s Leadership and Campaign Academy (LCA)—created in 2011 to equip potential candidates with the knowledge and skills to run successful campaigns and become strong leaders once elected—has trained 1,688 potential candidates, including more than 700 women. On election day, 50 LCA graduates were elected into office in Kenya. In the post-election period, NDI is providing training and mentorship to newly elected women, and supporting women to form county-level women’s caucuses to create a more effective and representative legislative agenda.
In 2010, NDI partnered with the Kenyan Election Observation Group (ELOG), a coalition of 10 civil society organizations, to strengthen its ability to provide long-term, systematic domestic election monitoring. Ahead of the 2013 polls, NDI supported ELOG to deploy 542 long-term observers to provide analysis and information about the electoral environment in the months before the elections. NDI also worked with ELOG member organizations to conduct monitoring in four thematic areas: women’s participation; campaign finance legislation; politically motivated violence; and auditing and updating of the voter registry.
On election day, with NDI support, ELOG deployed about 1,500 trained, accredited, nonpartisan rapid response monitors to a statistically representative sample of polling stations to conduct a parallel vote tabulation (PVT). During election week, ELOG released statements with information from PVT observers on the opening of polls, the voting process, and the vote tallying process. Following the release of the official election results, ELOG released a final statement verifying that the official results fell within the PVT projected ranges for each candidate.
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Alison Paul DeSchryver, senior program manager