IGP Stories

The path to democracy: Interrogating the 2022 Kenyan election

Hannah Collins and Amos Tirra

28 June 2023

Elections around the world are often a fraught time of false promises, misinformation, dramatics and, sometimes, violence. With the rise of social and online news media, tensions and population divisions are growing. In countries with newer democracies the political system is threatened and provoked by this division. Our new working paper explores the impact of social media and print news on the 2022 Kenyan general election.

Drivers of the electoral process in Kenya are complex. Historical relationships between the various, large ethnic groups in Kenya and the background of the sitting government, influences political dynamics and voter preferences. The same pool of politicians tends to dominate the political process and the majority of political parties are formed to participate in a given election but do not last more than one election cycle. Furthermore, there are strong ties between political and economic interests of leading figures in politics who shape business outcomes for their own profit.

Prior to 2022, the previous five election cycles in Kenya were the most violent periods in the country’s post-independence history. However, in the lead up to the 2022 election cycle there were signs that the political discourse based on ethnocentrism and its underlying drivers was changing.

This working paper explores the events leading up to and after the 2022 Kenyan general election through a web-based analysis of social and news media paired with qualitative data collected from selected community leaders. This in-depth analysis maps the electoral landscape and reveals key drivers of the election outcome: including key political events in the lead up to the election; the use of positive and negative sentiment by key parties; the impact of populist narratives; and how events and statements were relayed through the media outlets.

We offer some reflections on the election and recommendations on how the electoral process in Kenya can be further safeguarded to ensure that democracy in Kenya works for the prosperity of the citizens, not just of the politicians.

Picture: Luis Morera on Unsplash

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