In sharp contrast to the 2007 Kenyan presidential elections, when 1,100 people were killed and 600,000 displaced in widespread ethno-political violence, the 2013 vote, held on March 3, was remarkably peaceful despite fears of trouble. Some violence did occur, mainly in the Coast Province, with deaths estimated at 19 including civilians and police officers, but the election as a whole has been highly successful, and on the day the armed security officers at each of about 30,000 polling stations had little to do. With turnout estimated at a very high 70 per cent, voters queued patiently throughout the country, often in searing heat. They battled computer glitches, late opening, and other snags, to choose candidates at every level of the system, namely MPs, senators, women’s representatives, county governors, and county assembly members. When the final results came in, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta — who is the son of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta and leader of the Jubilee alliance — managed to secure 50.07 per cent of the vote. Though he handily beat Prime Minister Raila Odinga of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), who managed only 43.31 per cent, the fact that Mr. Kenyatta barely managed to cross the 50 per cent threshold mandated for a victor under the revised electoral system has opened the door for a legal challenge to the results.
Mr. Odinga claims the count was rigged, a charge the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission flatly rejects. Depending on how the Supreme Court of Kenya handles things, Mr. Kenyatta will either be declared elected or will have to face a run-off next month with Mr. Odinga, Whatever the outcome, difficult issues still obtain. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has brought charges against Mr. Kenyatta of crimes against humanity related to the alleged funding of ethnically-based death squads in the 2007 elections. His running-mate William Ruto has also been charged, as have two other Kenyans, but the national courts have overruled the Kenya Human Rights Commission by stating that those charged can stand for election irrespective of the ICC charges. Furthermore, Mr. Ruto may have teamed up with Mr. Kenyatta with a view to mounting a joint defence in the ICC. The Kenyan people, however, have shown their commitment to the democratic process and have themselves ensured a peaceful election; the task for their political leaders is to show themselves worthy of their electorate. Indeed, it would be a tragedy for the country if after this election the politicians failed the voters.