Why 2022 poll is a game-changer in Kenyan politics

Activities at the 2022 General Election National Tallying centre, Bomas of Kenya Auditorium, Nairobi on August 11, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

As we congratulate the victors of Tuesday's election, it is important to take a moment and commend ourselves for a job well done.

The election cycle was not perfect. Many politicians violated election laws with impunity.

Many also chose mudslinging and propaganda over clear policy differentiation from their opponents. And in the end, voter turnout was about 10 percentage points lower than expected - a sign of disaffection with the options and overall system.

Yet despite all that did not go right, this election will likely go into the books as a turning point in our electoral history.

First, the presidential election scrambled the usual political map organised around ethnicity.

The populism of the "bottom up" economic model as articulated by Dr David Ndii and the ongoing cost of living crisis forced extended discursions of the economy throughout the election.

This is a positive development. I hope the economy and how it impacts material outcomes in Kenyan households will remain central to our politics.

Second, the IEBC showed encouraging glimpses of what is possible. It is true that the commission appeared to be in a shambles right before the poll.

For example, errors on ballots forced postponements of elections in some counties.

Yet after a slow start on election day, the result transmission system worked smoothly for the all-important presidential election. The IEBC's radical transparency on this front is commendable.

The only weak link in this regard was the lack of coordination among media houses which would have enabled them to tabulate the results from the more than 46,000 polling stations a lot faster.

Now that the election is done, we must focus on the hard work ahead. Politicians must be honest with Kenyans about the fact that it will get worse before it gets better.

Both at the national and county levels, we need to rationalise public spending, cushion the vulnerable among us from hunger, and inject new life into the economy. Let's make democracy work for our people!

The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University