The upcoming Kenyan general election isn’t far from the thoughts of many Africa investors these days.
It’s easy to understand why.
Violence following the 2007 poll left hundreds dead, thousands homeless, and temporarily derailed the region’s economic development.
The presidential contest pits the Jubilee Coalition’s Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, who faces war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC), versus CORD’s Raila Odinga, the nation’s current prime minister who has been accused of corruption relating to a state-owned molasses plant.
Polls indicate the race is neck and neck and could be pushed to a second round of voting if neither candidate receives a majority of the vote the first time round.
The World Bank estimates that Kenya’s economic growth will reach 5.0% this year if the elections come off peacefully. But if post-election tumult erupts once more, that rate is forecast to brake to 3.0%.
Given the stakes for the Kenyan people, I approached a number of market watchers with boots on the ground and asked them what they expected to transpire. Do they expect the poll to be peaceful and did they care to speculate on the outcome?
Here’s their take:
Samuel K. Gichohi, Business Development Manager, NIC Securities
I do expect a free and fair poll on Tuesday! The Kenyan population seems to have realized that the fight is between the candidates and this has been the dominant agenda in voter education. Voting patterns are now shifting towards issues. Hate speech has been non-existent this time round, and this will help to ease tensions. Most leaders now know that the ICC is watching us very closely this time round.
Moreover, the necessary institutions have been put in place and the electoral commission is not in dispute as was the case in 2007. We also have a new voter register which will weed out ghost voters and rigging claims while the reformed judiciary has created a credible avenue for recourse.
One important factor of note is that investors have continued to drive a bullish market up to one week before the election which is an indication of confidence since the market is a thermometer of investor sentiment.
Alistair Gould, Head of Trading, Old Mutual Securities
I’m very optimistic about the upcoming election. Kenya has grown considerably from our last election, and I believe that all concerned persons, whether politicians or voters, have learnt from the 2008 experience.
Kenya is poised for great growth at the moment. And while the election race is tight and too close to call at the moment, we are at a very defining time in our history, and I believe the greater good will prevail. As a democracy, the strides we have taken over the past five years have brought us a long way forward, and I believe that we shall see a free and fair election this time round. Security around the country has, naturally, been heightened, and we are not likely to see any substantial violence.
Kimathi Ikiao, Senior Investment Analyst, Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation
I am very optimistic that the upcoming election will be fair and peaceful. Immense resources have gone into educating the public on the electoral process, and the need for accepting the outcome of the election results. As such, the country is far from being as polarized as it was at the last election when the cracks were evident not only in the streets but in virtual (online) communities as well.
I happen not to have been in the country during the last election but closely monitored the proceedings online. This time around, the online community forums show an increased sense of maturity and tolerance of opposing view points which is a real reflection of the general public’s approach to the elections.
Mika Davis Mtonga, Founder, Contrarian Investing Kenya
The voting process should be peaceful, but overall it depends on how contestants handle the outcome of the elections. I think that’s the biggest unknown.
The outcome will depend on the voter turnout in each of the contestants strongholds and how they perform in swing regions. Overall, I expect a run off or an upset from Jubilee.
Francis Mwangi, CFA, Head of Research, Standard Investment Bank
I believe the electoral body has taken adequate measures (ie. investor education and the streamlining of the results submission process) to ensure fairness prevails.
On peacefulness of the process, this time around there are numerous campaigns by churches, government, media, churches and NGOs. Though the anxiety is mounting, now that we are only have six days to go, it feels different as in 2007 there was more tension than anxiety.
While I sound optimistic, the key negative that comes to mind is the lack of compliance to set rules by the electoral commission. During the party nomination process (primaries), the rules were clear that anyone who did not secure nominations on the original party ticket would not be allowed to move to other parties. The electoral body failed to enforce this, raising questions on their independence.
Daniel Chege Ndung’u, Portfolio Manager, Cannon Asset Managers
I am optimistic that the upcoming election will be fair and peaceful for four reasons.
1) Kenya now has a very elaborate and well structured new constitution which seeks to strengthen key institutions.
2) The government has undertaken many reforms which provide a platform for a fair and peaceful election. The police, election commission, and judicial institutions have been reformed in line with the new constitution.
3) Kenyan politics seem to have matured somewhat as demonstrated by the two presidential debates where issues were discussed.
4) The Kenyan people have learnt that violence and destroying each other does not help them as witnessed in after the 2007/08 election.
I would not want to speculate on the election’s outcome, but it seems that the Jubilee Coalition is gaining ground each day and is likely to come out tops. However, if there is a runoff, CORD will be at an advantage.
Johnson Nderi, Head of Research, Suntra Investment Bank
We believe the elections will be free and fair because, even though there are strong undertones of tribalism, the competing coalitions are actually relatively heterogeneous. Civil society has also played a big role in ensuring things go smoothly.
Moses (Waireri) Njuguna, Senior Research Analyst, Genghis Capital
I’m very optimistic that these elections will be peaceful. The reason for this is we have a stronger and more powerful judiciary that has undergone restructuring and vetting. The Chief Justice actually sent representatives to Uganda so that they could learn how to hasten any election petition case – Uganda completes such a case in a time frame of about two weeks. Furthermore, the memories of 2007/8 post election violence is vivid in the minds of Kenyans who do not want to see a repeat of the same.
The risk is the unrest exhibited during the primaries especially in Nyanza providence, which could be a precursor of violence in that area. There are rumors that certain groups are arming themselves either with guns or machetes so any small spark could cause something way worse than 2008. But I believe with the 90,000+ police force who either have or will be dispatched will be able to quell any uprising.
What Do You Think?
What are your expectations for Kenya’s 2013 general election? Let us know in the comments!