Does The Jubilee Administration Stand a Chance of Reelection?
By Joy Ochuka
The Jubilee government’s term will come to an end in the next 6 months, the world and in particular the Kenya electorate is watching and expects the incumbent government to show cause why they qualify for a second term in office. On August 8th 2017 Kenyans will decide their next government through the ballot.
In one hand, conventional wisdom tells us not to underrate the power of incumbency however on the other hand, Kenyan history tells us that we can ignore the formidable force of a united opposition at our own peril. In 2002, Kenya opposition parties deliberately formed a national alliance coalition to unseat the then incumbent KANU government, which saw the opposition win a landslide victory. Ahead of 2017 elections, Kenyan opposition leaders have once again strategically teamed up to form the National Super Alliance (Nasa) Party. Opposition leaders have vowed to defeat Jubilee at the ballot come Election Day.
Any Economist will allude to the fact that how elected political leaders manage a country’s macro economy has a great significance on the quality of life of its citizenry now and in future. Whether a large budget deficit is positive or problematic at any given time is something Kenyan voters should be able to evaluate for themselves. Based on this backdrop, I wish to pose a rhetoric question to Kenya’s electorate: Does Jubilee government stand a chance of reelection?
Without a doubt, using the lens of economic indicators, the incumbent government has made attempts to steer Kenya’s economy forward. Indeed, reports by independent data sources like Bloomberg Agency and World Bank both affirm that Kenya’s economic outlook is positive. Latest figures released in December 2016 by these agencies correspond with data from both Kenya Bureau of Statistics and the Central Bank that the country’s economy has grown by 6%.
Analysts suggest that the economic activity was supported by expansions in all sectors, with services and mining and quarrying leading the way. President Uhuru Kenyatta also assented to the interest rate cap in September 2016, this is something that continues to excite the electorate.
Despite these positive outlook reports, the electorate has not felt the trickle down benefit of the same. The electorate is concerned about the soaring public debt. Analysts also speculate that Kenya may lack the ability to service its debts and subsequently this will affect her borrowing cost and government bond yield post 2017 election.
Kenya’s Public Debt Graph Source: Bloomberg Terminal
Kenya’s economy is considered dominant in east Africa thanks to its strong private sector and geostrategic position. However, the period between 2014 and 2016 it experienced mass exodus and reorganization by major corporations including Cadbury, Eveready, Sameer Africa, Coca-Cola, HP to name but a few, due to varied reasons such as unfavorable cost of production, in conducive business environment, taxation et cetera. This retreat has led to steep rise in unemployment in the country. According to report by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics the current unemployment rate stands at 40.2%.
The irony is both the government and opposition are currently overly preoccupied with driving voters’ registration at the expense of effectively managing the economic health of the nation for prosperous economy post 2017 elections.
The cost of living and inflation continue to rise currently reported to be at 6.99%. The electorate continues to agonize over price increases and deficient social services. Despite the right to life to the electorate as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution, the Jubilee government has failed to provide emergency medical service to its electorate; they continue to suffer as medics stay away from public hospitals after month long strike. The electorate is also experiencing higher taxes, tighter money supply majorly driven by election year uncertainty. Generally the electorate is facing a variety of significant economic challenges and there is widespread debate regarding the health of Kenya’s economy.
If Jubilee government hopes to continue attracting more investors from within and outside the country, then it needs to create optimism in Kenya by helping it regain its slowly but steadily eroding geostrategic position in East Africa. The incumbency also needs to realize that, governments that serve during times of difficult economic environment, like what Kenya is currently experiencing, usually have a difficult time winning reelection.
Simply put, unless Jubilee government puts double effort in the next 6 months to come up with a strategy that will capture enough popularity from the electorate they may not win a second term in office.