By Staff

Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies

2007 Political Forecast

 

Most of this year, Kenyans will be preparing for the December presidential and parliamentary elections.  In this regard, political campaigns, composition of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), the constitutional review process and international relations are expected to dominate the political scene.

 

Political Campaigns and Elections

 

While many political parties have vowed to field a presidential candidate, GLCSS predicts it will be a two-horse race between ODM-Kenya and NARC-Kenya. The electoral fever which started to surface towards the end of last year – in what looked like political party coups blamed on the government – suggests this year’s campaigns will be characterized by political violence

 

This prediction is further supported by tribal violence in some parts of Kenya last year and also by the conduct of by-elections in July last year which were marred by violence, sending signals that this year’s elections could have a similar character.

 

Although it is too early to predict which party will win the election, GLCSS believes if Kibaki campaigns on an NARC-K ticket, he stands a better chance of being re-elected. But it would be unwise to underestimate the strengths of ODM-K. 

 

When it successfully registered last year as a political party, bringing together prominent political personalities like Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Najib Balala, the ODM-K demonstrated it was going to be a major player in this year’s elections.

 

However as GLCSS recently predicted, its strength is highly dependent on its unity, which will be judged on the ability to agree on a single candidate. Considering the political background of its members, there is little chance of it achieving that goal.

 

Historically, all the candidates have been vying for the state house for many years. For example Raila Odinga may seize this as his opportune moment for the state house after stepping down in the last elections in favor of Kibaki. If he is not nominated, it seems highly unlikely he will endorse another candidate. The same is true of Najib Balala who once said that he will not step down in favor of any candidate. Their tribal differences could threaten their unity if one believes that identity politics plays a big role in Kenya’s politics.

 

Another factor could be the disappointments which have followed the NARC coalition.  President Kibaki, after taking office, refused to honor the Memorandum of Understanding reached between political parties on the eve of the elections. This worsened when he dropped most of the ministers in a cabinet reshuffle which followed the defeat of his backed constitutional referendum. These ministers had helped him form the coalition which helped him win the 2002 elections but opposed his 2005 constitutional referendum.

 

Another major player in these elections will be the current ruling NARC coalition, likely to field Charity Ngilu as its presidential candidate. If that were to happen, NARC is also likely to form an alliance with other political parties or dissidents from ODM-K and NARC-K because Ngilu seems to have support from other political parties, especially those who worked with her in the NARC coalition but later withdrew from it after disagreements with president Kibaki.

 

Another advantage she has is that if President Kibaki officially declares his intention to stand for re-election on a NARC-K ticket, it would anger his remaining partners in the NARC coalition, paralyzing government businesses. This may lead to various resignations, all diminishing Kibaki’s popularity.

 

Apart from the presidential race, parliamentary seats are also likely to be hotly contested, potentially ushering in new faces that are likely to defeat the long-serving MPs who failed to deliver in their respective constituencies. For instance, Paul Kamlest Pattni – though once implicated in the Goldenberg scandal – has showed interest in contesting for the Westlands seat, claiming to be a political voice for the voiceless. In Lang’ata, the current MP, Raila Odinga will not find the race as easy as before, after Nduru Waruinge threatened to contest for the same seat.

 

ECK Composition

 

The question of the composition of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) is another bone of contention. Whereas the Kenyan constitution stipulates that the President of the Republic has the prerogative to appoint members of the ECK, the opposition claims that the president appoints his own people who ensure electoral success. They want the president to appoint electoral commissioners proportional to political party representation in parliament, to ensure its neutrality.

 

Constitutional review

 

The issue of constitutional review will also form part of political developments. The government wants a new constitution to be enacted after the general elections, citing lack of enough time and resources to hold both a referendum on the constitution and general elections in the same period. The opposition claims that the present constitution favors the incumbent president and in order to ensure free and fair elections, minimum reforms need first to be included in the present constitution.

 

To this end, the government approved two bills to provide a clear road map for completion of the constitutional review, which it plans to table before the parliament for approval. These are the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill to entrench the constitutional review process and the Constitution of Kenya Review Bill to set up various organs of the review process, their mandate and procedures. These two bills are likely to be rejected by opposition MPs which could further damage the achievement of the new constitution before the election.

 

IGAD and Kenya to play positive role

 

In the field of international relations, Kenya is likely to enjoy good relations with her major partners, which soured in the past due to credible allegations of corruption. The resignation of three ministers accused of corruption seems to have convinced the donor community that the government is committed to fighting corruption.

 

Kenya will also play a pivotal role in resolving regional conflicts. This is because President Kibaki is the chairman of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that has been at the forefront of resolving regional conflicts, especially the North and South Sudan conflict and Somali crisis. The President will have to ensure that the Somali government consolidates its position in Mogadishu following the defeat of the Islamic Courts Union.

 

As the current chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Kenya will also play a significant role in the implementation of the resolutions of the 2nd International Conference on the Great Lakes, such as the Peace and Security Pact and the Economic Pact adopted by the heads of state and governments in December last year. 

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Economic Forecast
 

GLCSS concurs with other economic analysts who predict continued economic growth in 2007. This will hinge upon the climate and political stability in the country. Considering how the drought affected Kenya’s agriculture sector in the first quarter of last year, one should not hesitate to mention that the expected 5.5 GDP growth could hardly have been attained.

 

The agriculture sector is slated to continue growing, but this will depend on rainfall, given the arid and semi-arid topography. Kenya’s GDP depends hugely on the agriculture sector. For example, it is said that between 2002 and 2005, coffee alone contributed about nine billion shillings to the national growth. Horticulture contributed about 38.8 billion shillings and maize brought in 6.3 billion shillings.

 

The tourism sector, another key driver of growth, is expected to contribute about 27 percent to GDP, but this is unpredictable because it will depend on political developments. If the campaigns turn into violence, it might scare off tourists.

 

GLCSS also forecasts a continued downturn in business due to rising fuel and electricity prices. Although government will undertake various electricity projects, they are unlikely to be completed by the end of the year.

 

The same problem will affect the transport sector, which is still underdeveloped and will continue to affect other sectors such as tourism and business throughout the year. However due to the duty waiver on computer and ICT items in this year’s budget, the communications sector is likely to grow.

 

The Kenyan shilling, which strengthened by 4.8 percent against the US Dollar in the second half of the previous year, is likely to remain stable or continue to strengthen. This is on the assumption that the economy doesn’t regress.

 

On the stock exchange market, more companies are likely to list on the Nairobi Stock Exchange and could increase if the stock exchanges of Tanzania and Uganda join it to trade electronically as expected.

 

However, prices of commodities and services are likely to increase which could affect ordinary citizens whose per capita income is approximately US$ 485. This is based on Kenya’s budget for the fiscal year 2006/2007 which seeks to increase both spending and revenue to trim the budget deficit to about 3.6 percent of GDP.

 

The level of unemployment will continue to rise given that Kenya is switching from economic recovery to sustainable economic development. During the recovery period, the government registered a slow rate in job creation, less than the yearly target of 500,000 jobs.

 

On the positive side however, the government treasury is likely to receive more money from developed countries, the World Bank and the IMF, which had withheld assistance due to corruption charges.

 

 

William Church is director of the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank with offices in Central and East Africa. You may contact William Church at wchurch@glcss.org” wchurch@glcss.org. GLCSS trains African journalists, offers an on-site internship to foreign African studies students, and manages an exchange program withjournalists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe.

 

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