Friday, November 10, 2017 11:55 AM / BMI Research
BMI View: Raila Odinga's decision to pull out of a re-run of Kenya's presidential election re-affirms the likelihood of widespread violence between government supporters and his own over the coming months. Although not yet our core view, Odinga's withdrawal increases the risk that President Uhuru Kenyatta will ultimately be forced to offer some kind of power-sharing arrangement if violence escalates to levels similar to those following the disputed election in 2007/2008.
Kenya's ongoing political crisis is set to deepen before showing any signs of improvement following opposition candidate Raila Odinga's announcement that he will not run in the rescheduled presidential election on October 26. Following the Supreme Court's decision in September to annul the result of the initial August vote, Odinga has levelled a series of demands at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), including an overhaul of staff and greater transparency in the IT software used to tally electronic votes.
However, with negotiations over how to implement these changes before the election re-run having made no progress, Odinga has made good on his threats to boycott the vote and announced he will not stand. A subsequent High Court decision made on October 11 that allows a third candidate, Ekuru Aukot, onto the ballot sheet in the re-run suggests the vote will go ahead regardless, but we believe it will lack a degree of popular legitimacy without Odinga's participation.
Having rejected participating in the re-run of the election, it is increasingly likely that Odinga will instead push for some kind of powersharing agreement with a Kenyatta-led government (see ''No-Election Scenario' Increasingly Likely', September 29). Divisions run deep amongst the Kenyan electorate, and we have previously highlighted the likelihood that the election re-run would return a similar result to the original vote (see 'Kenyatta Victory In Rescheduled Vote Is Most Likely Scenario', September 12).
We believe Odinga sees this risk too and will look to maximise leverage over the government by encouraging supporters to vent their anger via public protests, as he has done in previous years. In early 2008, this strategy was enough to see him appointed as Prime Minister after several weeks of violence followed a disputed result in the 2007 presidential election.
Uncertain Whether Gamble Will Pay Off
At the time of writing, it remains unclear whether Odinga's gamble will pay off, though for now we have not changed our forecasts for Kenyatta to secure another term without having to resort to a power-sharing agreement. Violence, while likely to rise, is unlikely to escalate to levels which will trigger international mediation and sufficient pressure on the government to find a quick solution.
While we believe some uptick in social instability is highly likely over the coming months, we also recognise that the government is far more prepared for such a scenario than it was in 2007/2008, when a slow response to unrest saw violence escalate to previously unseen levels.
Moreover, with Odinga having actively chosen to boycott a more democratic means of taking office, any potential international mediation that follows the unrest is unlikely to sympathise with his position. These factors will limit the potential leverage Odinga will be able to use in bringing Kenyatta to the negotiating table.
We do note, however, that with the situation still in flux, the risk of more prolonged and significant violence and/or a power-sharing agreement has risen and we will continue to monitor the situation closely in the weeks ahead.