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Ready or Not? Elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe in 2013
Amy Eaglestone, IDASA
February 25, 2013

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Introduction

Governments of National Unity (GNU) have been established in various countries on the African continent in recent decades, from South Africa and Liberia in the nineties to more recently Kenya and Zimbabwe. GNU's are seen as a transitional measure, a vehicle to reduce tension and to create the space to drive durable peace and sustainable change. GNUs also seem to be Africa's conflict resolution approach to intra-state violence caused primarily by ethnic conflict and political polarisation. These power-sharing arrangements are aimed at creating a stable and inclusive political environment through which reforms can be implemented. They have the potential to engender a political framework based on democratic values and procedures. Yet they are fragile arrangements with a high risk of disintegration and they are often short lived.

In both Kenya and Zimbabwe democratic process crumbled when political opposition parties were on the verge of taking control of the state and the incumbent leaders refused to relinquish power, citizens of both countries were then confronted with severe electoral intimidation and violence and inadequate rule of law to protect them. Both GNU's are now reaching the end of their legal term. In Zimbabwe, the Constitution dictates that new elections will be held in 2013. In Kenya elections are planned for 60 days after terms of the GNU formation expire in January 2013, which is consistent with the original power-sharing agreement (Further background to each country's crisis and subsequent power-sharing agreement can be found in Appendix 1).

This paper focuses on a comparison of the GNU's of Kenya and Zimbabwe and their ability to implement reform in preparation for elections. This discussion is based on issues central to the democratic crises for credible and legitimate elections that the GNU's have attempted to address, namely; single party dominance, institutional capacity and electoral processes. Each topic is discussed by considering the crosscutting context-specific issues of the legislative framework, election credibility, the advantage of the incumbent administration and political violence. It is generally considered that Kenya has achieved the necessary reform to conduct legitimate and credible elections and that Zimbabwe has not, therefore the point of departure for this discussion is the state of reform in Kenya, to which the situation in Zimbabwe is compared (a summary of discussions can be found in Table 1, Appendix 2). The comparison in no way claims to be comprehensive in its review; the aim is to offer an overview of how the formation, structure and implementation of the GNU's have impaired or enhanced the ability of each nation to prepare for democratic elections.

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