The Count

Just as Americans relive the 2000 election in HBO’s Recount, long time Kenya election-watcher David Throup publishes an analysis of the disputed East African poll.

The international media and academics, including me, have more or less taken it for granted that the election was stolen by incumbent Mwai Kibaki. (See for instance Ted Miguel’s recent piece in Boston Review).

Throup tells us not to be so sure. The basic thrust of his argument: things are more complicated than they appear on the surface.

In his play-by-play of events, the media and the opposition were quick to interpret the election commission’s caution and incompetence as evidence of corruption. Throup argues that there is much to be suspicious about, but little hard evidence of wrongdoing. What’s more, the opposition may be as guilty as the ruling party.

The result of the election, Throup concludes, remains “obscure”.

That’s a less-than-satisfying conclusion, but all the same, it resonates. As with Bush-Gore 2000, I suspect we will never know for sure.

What the international community, and Kenyans, took for granted was the ability of the election system to survive a close call. In fact, irregularities are a regular feature of the electoral landscape. It simply never mattered enough in the past. The lesson: next time, we ought not to be so complacent.

Thanks to Kenya Imagine for the heads up.

Note: Apologies, but the article link is gated. If you find an ungated version, please put the link in the comments section.

One thought on “The Count

  1. whereas david throup attempts an analysis from some distance, those of us who watched the charade up close with good connections among the political elites have no illusion that the fix was’nt in, in the end. Contrarianism is a favourite postion for western intellectuals, but history deserves better than that. I don’t have a single friend in high office who denies that the fix went in, and the evidence was overwhelming, the problem is you need to spend considerbaly more time studying kenyan politics than mr. throup has done to get a detailed picture.