31 October 2017

Kenya: Credible Poll Drives Economic Growth

Photo: Ninara/Wikipedia

The country is deeply split along two major political formations, the Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance (Nasa), which continue to do battle on the national electoral front, with serious ramifications for the citizens.

Indeed, Jubilee under President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa, which is led by Mr Raila Odinga, each garnered nearly half of all the votes cast in the August 8 elections for the six elective positions -- president, governor, senator, MP, woman representative and member of county assembly.

It shows that the country is divided almost exactly between the two political groupings and their presidential candidates.


It is not surprising, therefore, that many Kenyans have all along been worried about whether whoever wins the coveted seat will succeed in uniting the country so we can all move forward.

This rivalry will persist even after the repeat presidential poll held last Thursday, which Nasa's Odinga withdrew from, literally clearing the way for President Kenyatta's re-election.

However, being the optimists they always are, the majority of Kenyans expect some economic improvement after the bruising election campaign period this year, regardless of the final outcome of the bitter contest.


But the same Kenyans are now generally worried as to whether whoever emerges the winner of the presidential contest will be also able to help reinvigorate the economy from its current downturn as a result of the effects of the prolonged politicking that has slowed down other activities for the better part of the year.

The relationship between democracy, elections and economic growth has been extensively debated.

Some analysts suggest that democracy and elections have no impact whatsoever on economic growth.

But others have recently shown that democracy, indeed, positively affects the rate of economic growth, notably when the transition to new government is peaceful and generally acceptable.


This is the issue of how elections affect economic growth, which has lately received a great deal of interest.

Democracy, elections and economic growth attract different views and reactions from stakeholders due to the legal, cultural and demographic factors not being the same in all countries.

Last year's elections in the United States, which brought President Donald Trump to power, have exposed the super power's soft underbelly.

Indeed, there were robust demonstrations in which the protesters denounced Mr Trump, rejecting him as their president for a variety of reasons.

These divisions are still being experienced today in the US.


Either elections can help build better institutions and improve governance, which, in turn, should increase economic growth policies, or there are instances where democracy leads to power hungry elites capturing power and using it to skew the distribution of resources much to the disadvantage of the majority, as has happened in many African countries.

Questions on the ability of the mandated institutions to carry out generally acceptable elections in the developing countries are particularly centered on the fear that incumbents can resort to illegal means to retain power, in which case they feel less obligated to pursue sound economic policies.

In Kenya, the Supreme Court on September 1, nullified the August 8 presidential election, citing "irregularities and illegalities".


It's worth noting that credible elections are the key institutional drivers of democracy.

However, every election held in Kenya since the reintroduction of multi-party governance on December 1991, has been bitterly contested in one way or another.

This disturbing trend has also been witnessed in the neighbouring East African Community countries of Uganda, and Burundi.

There have also been heated electoral disputes in countries such as Zimbabwe, and even Togo in West Africa.


Due to the improved democratic space in many of these countries, more candidates often take part in elections and hence offer different electoral manifestos for the citizens to read and make informed decisions concerning the candidate with the best economic growth policies.

The way national elections are organised affects efficiency and the desire for economic improvement.

A favourable political and electioneering environment positively affects the credibility and acceptability of elections by all the participants, which, in turn, sends a positive signal to the economy of the country.

The author is an economist and the chief executive at Kenya College of Sports and Fitness.


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