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For Kenya, electoral reform is a matter of life and death

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Last week Kenya received a wake-up call. A closely-fought by-election pitting candidates respectively sponsored by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his estranged deputy, William Ruto, was marred by various allegations of irregularities: from vote-buying to state interference to misconduct by election officials.

In the past, such abuses have led to significant, even apocalyptic loss of life. Although this time there was little violence, the chaotic contest – which was seen by many as a prelude to next year’s general elections – highlighted endemic problems within the electoral system that could spell disaster if left unaddressed.

Demands for reforms of the electoral system have been a constant feature of every election cycle in Kenya since the reintroduction of multiparty politics 30 years ago.

The script goes something like this: As the general elections approach, opposition demands for changes to level the playing field are rejected by the people in power. Following a season of violent confrontations between police and reform-minded activists – in the last cycle, these were dubbed Maandamano (Demonstration) Mondays after the weekly protests called by the opposition – the politicians cobble together a slew of last-minute “minimum reforms”.

These changes, however, do little to enhance the credibility of the........

© Al Jazeera

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