I’m a political scientist and i want to share some insights from scholars of democratic transitions (of which i am one)
1. 45% of contemporary democratizers (globally and in Africa) have experienced at least one episode of democratic backtracking. What Kenya is experiencing now is unquestionably an incidence of democratic backtracking. International observers and the ECK itself agrees that we’ve had rigged elections. Institutions of democracy did not function as they should and we’ve gone back at least ten years in that regard.
2. Half of these cases occur in the first six years of a democratic transition. The timing of this backtracking is again very much within the expectations of political scientists. The 2002 elections were not a guarantee that we had democracy down and we could all go home. The risk of unconsolidated gains has always loomed over us as a country regardless of how comfortable we got with the 6% economic growth rate.
3. Two-thirds of these backtrackers subsequently regain their democratic momentum, typically within three years. This is the critical point for Kenya and why I celebrate ODM’s win in Parliament today. If they mean well for the country they could coerce the Kibaki regime into critical reforms that will weaken the absolute powers of the president and distribute those powers to the legislature and judiciary. Raila has, at most, three years to make a positive impact for the country and to place the country on the road to a full and final democracy. The next three years are critical if Kenya is to finally democratize.
I’m praying that Raila means what he says when he posits himself as a champion of democracy. If he does, he and his ODM MPs better get to work strengthening the institution of Parliament by using it to challenge the Kibaki regime. They also better file a case in the courts challenging the elections, and by so doing, stengthening the institution of the judiciary vis a vis a the presidency.
If things go well, the next three years could see an impressive redistribution of political power from the presidency to the judiciary and the legislature all spearheaded by ODM.
If things go badly ODM will use parliament as a circus in a struggle for personal power. I’m still not convinced that Raila, as head of ODM, is fully committed to democracy and is not just on a personal power quest.
And I’ve totally written Kibaki off so its not even worth discussing hope for the future there.