Following the 2007 general elections Kenya plunged into a deep political, security and humanitarian crisis. The turmoil and violence that ravaged the country led to the killing of over 1,200 people and the displacement of another 350,000. The violence was undoubtedly ethnic in its character, but what about the election results and the rationales behind the electoral behaviour of the almost 10 million voters who cast their vote? The thesis looks beyond the distinctly ethnic voting patterns in Kenya and examines the rationales and mechanisms behind Kenyan electoral behaviour.
What do Kenyans emphasise when they head for the ballot box? The preliminary hypothesis is that Kenyans vote along ethnic lines mainly because they believe it will benefit their economic interests, either directly as individuals or as members of certain groups or communities. The thesis shows that economic ideology and economic value orientations plays a role in determining electoral behaviour in Kenya, and indicates a voting pattern with a significant correlation between political cleavages and ethnicity. The struggle for the control and distribution of resources through the state apparatus is fundamental for these rationales, and the political divisions related to these issues correlates well with the country’s main ethnic divisions.
The thesis reveals a considerable prevalence of relatively strong perceptions of marginalisation, owing largely to colonial injustices regarding distribution of land, and their reinforcement after independence. Voters from ethnic communities that share such perceptions of marginalisation state very clearly that issues pointing back to economic interests are decisive motivations for their electoral choices. Conversely, the motivations of voters representing ethnic communities perceived to have benefited from the unfair post-independent policies mirror those of their adversaries, especially with regard to private ownership and redistributionist policies. The thesis argues that this is what ultimately gives ethnicity its vital significance in the dynamics of Kenyan electoral behaviour