The term was originally used in Britain to refer to the latter part of summer, when Parliament is in recess and news is slow. During this period newspapers, to keep their readership, print attention-grabbing headlines. It is that period when frivolous news stories make headlines. However, in Kenya the ‘silly season’ is that period when politicians will say absolutely anything to make a headline. It happens during the 12 to 18 months before each election.
Cord launched the season last week with claims that Jubilee will rig the elections in 2017. The argument pre-supposes that Cord will have won that election. It also builds up on a common narrative they have invested tremendously in – that their candidate won the 2007 and 2013 elections but they were ‘stolen’. It is quite an alarming statement to make 18 months to an election without any substantiation. But as I said, the silly season is here and anything goes.
But does Jubilee really need to steal the 2017 elections to beat Cord? I highly doubt it!
Jubilee has made good on domestic issues. Compared to 2013, electricity prices are down. Fuel prices are down. There were more than one million new power connections in 2015 alone. In 2013, it cost Sh50,000 to get power, today it costs Sh15,000. There are less than 500 schools left in the entire country unconnected to electricity. The cost and ease of doing business has improved tremendously.
In infrastructure we have new roads everywhere. Those that were started by the Grand Coalition Government are being completed. A further 8,000 kilometres have been unveiled. The JKIA is looking so good we are about to start direct flights to America. The SGR is nearing completion. Due to fibre optic capacity growth there are digital business opportunities everywhere. Youth and women have a dedicated 30 per cent of all government business reserved for them. In regard to the one million jobs Jubilee promised to create every year, in 2013 they created 742,000 new jobs and 799,000 in 2014. The 2015 numbers will most probably be even higher.
Tourism is recovering. Regional and international trade is booming. The shilling is relatively stable against the dollar and other world major currencies and though the exchange rate has slipped somewhat, it is stable. The cost and ease of doing business has improved tremendously. Agriculture is being revived. Sugarcane farmers, a key Cord constituency, have started benefiting from the multibillion-shilling investment into their sector.
Security has been turned around. Police are well paid, well funded and well insured. They are taking their work seriously and Kenyans have noticed. Security is, therefore, no longer a campaign issue.
Diplomatically, Kenya is on the rise. US President Barack Obama was here. The Pope was here. The WTO was here. Our reputation is restored. Our standing in the region has been regained. We are a credible voice in world affairs, again. President Uhuru Kenyatta is co-chairing the United Nations General Assembly with the US President, UN secretary general and Chinese President. Kenya is an African powerhouse.
Corruption is being dealt with. The EACC has been reconstituted. The private sector is on board. The whole country has awakened to the fact that corruption is an evil we must all fight together. Five ministers and their PSs have lost their jobs. More than 300 cases have been handed over to the judiciary. Procurement rules have been rewritten. Corruption as an anti-Jubilee agenda no longer has a sting. Raila spent the last six months of 2015 beating the drum of corruption against the government and he has absolutely nothing to show for it. He has even lost credibility on this message based on his flip-flopping around the Eurobond issue. The public no longer believes him.
Politically the Jubilee juggernaut is obliterating Cord. Cord has had absolutely no success infiltrating Jubilee strongholds while Jubilee is literally shaking up the political landscape in Cord strongholds, especially in the Coast, Western and Eastern. While Jubilee is talking unity across the country Cord is using violence to control its branch leadership. Jubilee already has its presidential line-up in place while Cord is still talking of three co-principals.
The circumstances above show why Jubilee does not need to rig the 2017 general election to beat Cord.
Cord knows this so they are setting the ground for a replay of 2007. They will keep repeating the claim that the next election will be rigged, hoping it becomes a common narrative. They will normalise political violence by hyping it in public spaces and using it in their internal polls in their strongholds. They will try and leverage election-related violence to delegitimise the Jubilee win and demand a share of government, to restore peace.
It is a simple strategy that ODM has used before. The only problem is that Kenyans died in the process.
Ngunjiri is a Director of Change Associates, a Political Consultancy