Is our economy a hostage of politics?

Azimio la Umoja supporters at the KICC reacted to the filling of a presidential petition on August 22, 2022. [Silas Otieno, Standard]

It was every voter's dream that after the long wait, we would vote and go back to our business of earning an honest living.

Remember 80 per cent of citizens are in the informal sector. They have no regular salaries or pensions. Some live one day at a time.

The court battle, despite all its intensity and stakes, is a contest of elites, never mind they say it's on our behalf. Remember the politicians and lawyers in the Supreme Court are working!

The rest of the country is at standstill, waiting and hoping. It does not matter who wins. As The Standard editor Andrew Kipkemboi put it last week, we all are losers. Why?

We saw the stock market lose as the politicians headed to the apex court. The decline in the stock index or prices is a loss to investors. Think of wealth held in stocks.

The last time I checked, the Nairobi Securities Exchange's (NSE) market capitalisation was Sh2.19 trillion as of August 24.

Compare that with our budget of about Sh3 trillion. The slowdown in the activities at the NSE also means losses for those who earn a living from trading through commissions. Remember stock brokers and related stakeholders?

The attractiveness of our markets also suffers. Investors could take their money elsewhere.

It's not just hot money but the capital investment to that. The stock market direction is often a signal to the rest of the world about what is happening in a country's economy. And it affects the national image.

While stock owners can fret over "paper loss" because they have not sold their shares, ordinary citizens have bigger worries. One is that polls usually dissipate national anger.

The return to court could accumulate more of that anger. Whatever the Supreme Court verdict, there will be an angry group of Kenyans.

The pronouncements of the politicians as the case go stocking more anger and we must add fear. What happened to sub-judice? This case has two faces, the legal front and the noisy political front.

We hope the Supreme Court will not be swayed by political noise, no matter which side of the political divide is coming from. Two is that the president took sides during the campaign. He should come out and pronounce his neutrality now, as the president, not a politician.

Apex court

Three, I fear the day the apex court will give its verdict. After the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced the winner, the loser knew there was Supreme Court to turn to. Where does one go after losing in the apex court? We hope not streets.

Four, what if the apex court pronounces a winner different from the one given by IEBC?

Could we have two groups claiming political legitimacy?

One is given by the people of Kenya and the other by the Supreme Court. We expect Solomonic wisdom from the nation's highest court.

Remember their decision will be used as a precedent. The stakes are high in the apex court. On one side is the extension of the status quo which came clearly during the campaigns.

If you are keen and can see through the political fog, it's more than meets the eye. Civil society has been coopted in this petition, directly or indirectly.

You may contest this, but after gaining a foothold in the judiciary, civil society set its eyes on the next institution, the presidency. On this, they played the long game.

The other side is the hustler nation and its messianic message which has sent shivers down the spine of the establishment.

Taking the case to the Supreme Court has angered this group, seeing an elitist conspiracy to block them from ascending to power.

They fear that the elites (read dynasty) have conspired to extend their rule. They fear that if they lose this time, it could be decades before they regain another momentum. The other side could tighten its grip on both political and economic powers.

Declaring someone else the winner, beyond the IEBC declaration, in my opinion, will discourage voting in future, and usurp the sovereignty of the people. Maybe, it's time I became a learned friend and too minted money from petitions.

Enough digression. The ordinary citizens are not thrilled by the court battles. They have bigger worries like school fees, rent, food and medical costs. If you have children in school, you know the damage the compressed year has done to your pocket. Add the inflation that reduced our purchasing power.

Economic issues were at the heart of the campaign. The dispute is making economic matters worse. It's holding our economy hostage. Who likes uncertainty?

Fueling Inflation

Did you notice maize flour in supermarkets after the subsidy was dropped? In low tones, could the subsidy on oil be dropped, fueling inflation further? The economy is the poisoned chalice for the next president.

The framers of the 2010 constitution gave the Supreme Court only 14 days to hear the petition and determine it. I wish all cases in Kenya were like that. That was meant to reduce the anxiety and reduce the chances of the incumbent perpetuating himself or herself.

What is clear is that the uncertainty arising from this dispute is having a toll on the economy, affecting mostly ordinary citizens.

Whoever wins must hit the ground running. First, build bridges with the losers and resuscitate the economy battered by global and local forces. Turning around an economy takes time and patience. It's not as easy as voting. The state of the economy in the next five years will determine the winner of the 2027 polls. We are waiting to see the economic magic of the winner of the presidential poll.

On the streets, Kenyans want to put politics behind them and regain their lives. Life and Earth are hard. Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and unreliable rains were bad enough. Political disputes should not make it worse.

The Standard
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