Like Ruto, Raila should pledge to accept poll outcome 

Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga addresses a rally at Lurare village in Webuye East Constituency, Bungoma County on May 28, 2022. 

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • It is mollifying Ruto has repeatedly said in public he will accept the outcome of the results.
  • Will Raila accept the August 2022 outcome without urging his supporters to rally for mass action that might turn violent? 

Prof Samuel Huntington has aptly written about ‘Democratic consolidation'. It has been described as a political situation where democracy matures. It becomes unlikely to revert to autocracy without an external shock, and is regarded as the only available system of government within a country.

There are several indicators of democratic consolidation .Firstly, there must be durability of democracy over time, including adherence to democratic principles such as rule of law, an independent judiciary, competitive and fair elections and a developed civil society.

Democracy must also be accepted by its citizens as the ruling form of government, thus ensuring stability and, again, minimising the risk of reverting to an enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom .

I would add, for African countries, democratic consolidation must entail society pivoting away from parochial and ethnic- based politics towards issue-based politics .

Otherwise, elections can be a mere ethnic census.

Prof Samuel ,in his book The Third Wave, discusses various aspects of democratic stabilisation and the prospects of consolidation in fledgling third-wave democracies. He outlines a number of conditions that have favoured or are favouring the consolidation of new democracies: 1) the experience of a previous effort at democratisation, even if it failed; 2) a high level of economic development; 3) a favourable international political environment, with outside assistance; 4) early timing of the transition to democracy, relative to a worldwide "wave", indicating that the drive to democracy derived primarily from indigenous rather than outside influences; and 5) experience of a relatively peaceful rather than violent transition.

Maturing democracy

In Kenya, Judiciary and political actors’ recent actions have signalled maturing democracy. 

For the Judiciary, its bold decision to cancel the 2017 elections, notwithstanding the legal merits and demerits of the judgment, represents a maturing democracy. Torpedoing of the BBI three times further entrenched the notion of judicial independence, which further aided in democratic consolidation . Chief Justice Martha Koome must maintain that trajectory of judicial independence. Her recent rule gagging lawyers' social media comments on pending cases does not bode well for democratic consolidation.

Two political actors have aided this process. They are President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto. Uhuru’s decision not to prop up a Kikuyu kingpin as his successor remains unpopular in the Mountain.

However, it has had the effect of consolidating nation-building processes,an important building block for democratic consolidation. In the short term he might remain a regional pariah, but history might be kind to him. He had the opportunity to build a Kikuyu successor but he chose a different path. This has left the political field with two strong non-Kikuyu contestants. The long-held argument that Kikuyus can never vote for an outsider is set to be shattered. This will be a major step towards nation-building and Uhuru will deserve a paragraph.

Ruto's decision to frame 2022 elections in economic terms has worked wonders in pivoting politics away from a tribe-based to issue-based discussion. He has championed the hustler narrative, which unites all tribes across the country. His meetings are macro-economic classes on job creation, economic revival and economic models.

His speeches include an outline of his achievements and his vision for the future. 

He pivots towards traditional politicking at the tail end of his speech and for only a few minutes. Can there be reversals of democratic consolidation in Kenya in August 2022? 

Rally for mass action

Of course, if any of the following happens: First, if any of the key players refuses to accept the outcome of the elections and chaos ensues. It is mollifying Ruto has repeatedly said in public he will accept the outcome of the results. Neither Azimio flagbearer Raila Odinga nor his running mate Martha Karua have publicly made this pledge. 

Kenyans need to nudge both Azimio contestants to give a commitment to peaceful resolution of any grievance that can arise out of the 2022 presidential electoral outcome.

In 2007, Raila lost to President Mwai Kibaki and refused to seek legal redress in court.

In 2013, he lost to Uhuru but went to court. He lost in court and there was chaos, which died out after police intervention. In 2017, Raila lost to Uhuru and successfully overturned the victory in court. However, he refused to go for the run-off and urged his supporters to resort to mass action . It took a handshake to calm things down .

Will Raila accept the August 2022 outcome without urging his supporters to rally for mass action that might turn violent? 

Will Raila help in democratic consolidation by taking any grievance he might have to court now that the Judiciary looks fairly independent ?

Dr Kang’ata teaches law at Catholic University of Eastern Africa .He is the senator for Murang’a and former Chief Whip of the Senate

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