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Kenya's Tumultuous Election Process Could Influence Other African Democracies

By Anita Powell October 25, 2017

Kenya made history when its Supreme Court nullified the result of the August 8 presidential poll as "neither transparent nor verifiable." But the chaotic aftermath of that decision could convince other African countries to shy away from such reforms.

Analysts say the county has already taught lessons to other African nations seeking to further democratize.

"From the first time you had, based on a new constitution, a court ruling that basically held the executive to account, as should be the case in a constitutional democracy," noted Jakkie Cilliers, chairman of the board of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies.

"Once the practical implications became clear, the result was the threat of violence and instability. But on the whole, the court ruling still presents a new benchmark, where rule of law, constitutional democracy, sets a new rule, a new bar, I think, that other courts and other countries and other emerging democracies are going to look at," Cilliers said.

But according to Africa analyst Rebekka Rumpel of the Chatham House research group, it is too soon to know whether Kenya's experience will resonate as an encouraging lesson, or as a cautionary tale.

"I do not think that amongst ordinary people there is a sense that this has gone wrong, that this is a failed experiment. I think more that the push to limit the constitution is coming from the elite level," Rumpel said, adding that the do-over poll will also determine how other governments react.

"If we have the kind of election that people, that observers, view as not free and fair on Thursday, for example, I think that kind of compounds a narrative of a kind of authoritarian trend in East Africa, that we see in Tanzania, Burundi, et cetera," she said.

This is Kenya's second presidential election since the adoption of a new constitution, passed after disputed 2007 polls.

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