Publication | Report/Paper

Toward Credible and Legitimate Elections in Kenya: Recommendations for Action


The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) undertook an election assessment mission in Kenya in March 1996. This report is the result of that two-week, three-person visit. The assessment was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The objectives of the mission were to assess the current electoral environment, enumerate the constraints to free and fair elections, and to recommend steps to eliminate those constraints. The team also looked at the current status of election preparations by the Electoral Commission and provided recommendations for accomplishment of its many tasks in preparing for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, especially in making reforms to the voter registration system.

In 1991, Kenya began a transition from a single-party state to a multiparty democracy. That transition is still incomplete. The repeal of section 2A of the Kenyan Constitution in December 1991 opened the door to significant changes in the political landscape in Kenya. The euphoria created by the legalization of multipartyism, however, allowed for Kenya's constitutional and legal transformation to be cut short. The victory of KANU in the 1992 elections meant that the ruling party continued to set the pace for legal changes. As a result, many of the problems and weaknesses in Kenya's democracy and electoral processes in 1996 are almost identical to those identified in the pre-election period in 1992. The lack of ability of Kenya's political class, particularly the ruling party, to resolve in the past four years the constraints to free and fair elections that plagued the process in 1992 points to an apparent lack of will on the part of the government to open up the system to truly competitive elections. It points to a failure by the state to carry out some of the fundamental responsibilities incumbent on it in a democracy. And it points to the necessity of a much more rapid pace of change if Kenya is to be prepared for free and fair elections in 1997.

There are many steps to be accomplished if Kenya is to have credible and legitimate parliamentary and presidential elections. (Chapter VITI of this report lists 90 steps.) Responsibility for taking these steps is shared by a number of actors in Kenya, including the Government, the Electoral Commission, political parties, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), individual voters, and donors.

The most important role is played by the Government, as they must take critical actions that exhibit their political will to see free and fair elections take place in Kenya. Their actions will set the stage--and set the standards--for effective action by other partners in this shared enterprise.

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