2022 polls should be about citizens

Citizens’ economic welfare is always fluctuating but the politicians have grown richer.

In Summary
  • The cohort can use this time to hold important conversations in their households.
  • Should the vote be just a vote, or a means to employ less risky political stewards?

The 2022 elections will present a rare opportunity to Kenyans born between 1965 and 1990. By 2022 this cohort will be between 55 and 30 years. With their vote, the cohort will determine if the politicians who have been in government and ruled them their entire adult lives continue to do so. We will call these lifetime politicians “the traditional”.

Previous elections were about prices, jobs and standard of living. But 2022 will be different. The election will be about fundamental freedoms and whole way of life as a country.

The potential merger between Jubilee and Kanu may facilitate how the cohort could take advantage of the opportunity. The integration will likely pull together all descendants of “the traditional” into one political basket.

One strategy the cohort may use to rethink their voting preferences is to reflect on the economic performance over the years since the 1997 general election. 

In 1997, individuals born in 1965 were 32 years. They voted in the Kanu government alongside Democratic Party, NDP and Ford Kenya. By 2000, the GDP had shrunk by 0.5 per cent and, because the politicians in government approved unfavourable international trade, the cohort’s economic welfare further diminished.

Unemployment rose as Kenya’s industries closed down. Yet, the politicians still thrived from government wage bill. 

In 2002, Kibaki came to power under Narc and quickly appointed into Cabinet people who are still active in politics to this day. The GDP growth that followed was quickly offset by the expensive 2005 constitution referendum invoice.

The economic gains that had been made continued to dwindle as policy business gave way for the fixation with managing political tensions after coalition breaking and the rise of Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement. The cohort’s economic welfare further deteriorated after the 2007 election.

The grand coalition framework to accommodate “the traditional” inflated the public wage bill. The cohort’s tax regime soared such that by May 2008, inflation had risen to 31.5 per cent while the consumer price index was up 10.5 per cent. Though inflation lowered to 3.97 per cent in 2010, a 13.98 per cent inflation rate in 2011 worsened the cohorts’ welfare. 

The government formed after the 2013 election also awarded jobs to “the traditional”. The cohorts’ economic welfare contracted as “the traditional” focused on managing the International Criminal Court cases and the presidential electoral dispute raised by ODM.

Although in 2013 the Central Bank of Kenya reported a 5.90 per cent annual GDP growth in 2013 and 6.30 per cent by 2018, the cohort failed to maximise welfare due to inter-ethnic tensions, which limited movement of capital and bodies outside.

Despite the different political parties’ in the 2017 election, most politicians were “the traditional”. Again, the cohort voted most of them in. Hope of economic revamp, going by the 5.9 per cent real GDP growth in 2019, appears bleak after considering the relative shocks likely to arise from the Building Bridges Initiative and the rupturing of political coalitions.

From this brief analysis, we can see that the citizens’ economic welfare is always fluctuating but we can all agree the politicians have grown richer by the day. Numerous auctions and court cases have exposed the depth of their wealth.

The coronavirus partial lockdown is a blessing in disguise. The cohort can use this time to hold important conversations in their households. Should the vote be just a vote, or a means to employ less risky political stewards? The 2022 general election is only 27 months (or just 729 weeks) away.