Government Politics of Kenya

Last elections: 4 March 2013 (presidential, legislative and local)

Next elections: 2018 (presidential, legislative and local)

Head of State: President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta

Head of Government: the President

Ruling party: Jubilee Coalition

At his third attempt, in a relatively peaceful contest, Mwai Kibaki, the candidate of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), comfortably won the presidential election in December 2002, with 62.2 per cent of the votes, while Uhuru Kenyatta (the son of Kenya’s first President), standing for the Kenya African National Union (KANU), received 31.3 per cent. The National Rainbow Coalition gained a substantial majority in the parliamentary elections, winning 125 seats; KANU took 64 and FORD-People 14 (Forum for the Restoration of Democracy). The Commonwealth observer group present commended the Electoral Commission, said that the elections ‘represented a major improvement on previous such exercises’ and described the electoral process as credible.

In a referendum in November 2005 a proposed new constitution was decisively rejected. Opposition to this  constitution was led by a new grouping, the ‘Orange team’, comprising Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a party with members in Kibaki’s cabinet. Kibaki then dismissed his cabinet. When in December he formed a new cabinet he excluded opponents of the new constitution (mainly LDP members) and included members of minority parties to shore up support for his government.

In 2007, when elections were due, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) led by Raila Odinga and Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K) led by Kalonzo Musyoka emerged as the main opponents to Mwai Kibaki and his newly formed coalition, the Party of National Unity (PNU). The PNU included KANU which had earlier left the Orange team, FORD-Kenya, NARC-Kenya (an offshoot of NARC) and several smaller parties. Tensions were high in the pre-election period, with outbreaks of violence.
Following a relatively peaceful polling day on 27 December 2007, the Orange team decisively won the parliamentary elections; ODM took 99 seats and its partner NARC three. The ruling PNU took 43 seats and its coalition partners 35 seats. Of the remaining constituencies declared, ODM-K won in 16 and independents in 11. A re-run was ordered in the three undeclared constituencies.

Unofficial results of the presidential election indicated Raila Odinga led Kibaki by at least 200,000 votes and the absence of any official declaration provoked widespread unrest in the country. When on 30 December 2007 the Electoral Commission published results, Kibaki was ahead with 4,584,721 votes, then Odinga with 4,352,993 and Musyoka with 879,903. Commonwealth observers noted that the elections were ‘the most competitive in the country’s history’ but raised doubts on the handling of the final stages of the presidential election, particularly the delay in announcing the results.

Protests about the presidential election results erupted and intensified in a period that became one of the most violent since independence and hundreds of people were killed.
Some of the violence assumed an ethnic dimension with the Kikuyu perceived as pro-Kibaki and the Luo as Odinga supporters. The opposing leaders eventually agreed to work together in a power-sharing coalition government with Kibaki as President and Odinga as Prime Minister. The agreement was brokered by a group of eminent persons led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In March 2008 the National Assembly enacted a law to formalise the deal.

Odinga subsequently became Prime Minister in a grand coalition government.
The presidential election held in March 2013 was won in the first round by Uhuru Kenyatta, the candidate of the Jubilee Coalition. He secured 50.1 per cent of votes cast;
Raila Odinga of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) took 43.3 per cent and Musalia Mudavadi of Amani 3.9 per cent. Turnout was 86 per cent.
In the simultaneous elections to the National Assembly the Jubilee Coalition won 167 seats, CORD 141 and Amani 24; and in the Senate Jubilee took 21 seats, CORD 20 and Amani 4. Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, who led a Commonwealth observer group, commended the peaceful nature of the poll.