This is the first of a four part series on Kenya’s national elections. Focusing on key factors such as the electoral process in Kenya and an insight into Kenya’s past elections leading to the 2017 elections.
On August 4, 2010, Kenyans compellingly voted to pass a new constitution following decades of clamour for a new constitutional bestowal. Kenya had, three years prior (2007), undergone an odious bout of post-election violence due to alleged election fraud. The crisis that was undoubtedly driven to its extremes by ethnocentrism, left the country reeling in social and economic shock, as it turned Kenya from one of Africa’s most stable and prosperous nations into one of the continent’s most chaotic nations at the time. The dominating factor advancing the passing of a new constitution was arguably the need for Kenyans to have a guarantee of electoral reforms. There was an evident need for a new constitutional, legal and administrative framework given the prevailing political and electoral environment in the country.
The Electoral System in Kenya
Elections in Kenya occur within the framework of a multi-party democracy and a presidential system. The current Kenyan constitution was introduced in 2010 and the first elections were held under it in 2013. The elections are organized by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The national elections in Kenya include presidential elections and parliamentary elections.
The 2010 constitution provides for a two round system for presidential elections, the president having been elected on a first-past-the-post basis. In order to be victorious in the first round, a candidate is required to receive at least 50% plus one vote nationally, as well as 25% of the votes in at least 24 counties. The constitution confers jurisdiction on the Supreme Court over presidential election petitions.
The country has 47 counties, each duly represented in Parliament. The parliament in Kenya is divided into The National Assembly and the senate. The National Assembly has 350 members. 290 of these are elected at constituency level. Due to a long standing trend in poor representation of women in parliament, the Constitution provides that 47 seats in the National Assembly are to be reserved for women based on the number of counties; all elected by first-past-the-post voting. The remaining 13 seats include those of 12 members, nominated based on political parties; and a speaker.
The Senate has 68 seats. 47 of these seats are elected from single member constituencies based on the number of counties. The remaining number of the seats are acquired by appointment; 16 of these women based on party’s seat numbers, two persons representing the Kenyan youth, two persons representing disabled persons in Kenya and one elected speaker.
The promulgation of the new Constitution saw to the formation of the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as a regulatory agency responsible for conducting and/or supervising any referenda and elections to any elective body established by the Constitution. Its functions include the continuous registration of voters, management of the voter’s register, voter education, monitoring of stakeholders’ compliance with electoral legislation and the use of appropriate technology and approaches in the performance of its function. The IEBC, therefore, holds the most important role with regards to Kenyan elections. Through the proper carrying out of its functions, it plays a critical role in averting pre and post-election conflict.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tracy Odhiambo is a lawyer with an LL.B (Hons) From Strathmore University Law School. She is a budding freelance writer from Nairobi, Kenya. Her interests include legal writing, African literature and English fiction.