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Safeguarding Kenyan Elections

Safeguarding Kenyan Elections

Diagnosing and defeating democratic deficit in African democracies

Disputed elections deepen ethnic divisions, undermine socio-economic realities, and damage public trust in key institutions. Professor Gabrielle Lynch and her colleagues have helped to develop Deep Election Monitoring as a means to better understand political dynamics during electoral cycles and to support democratization. The aim was to help promote credible and peaceful elections and aid processes of peace-building and transnational justice.

The challenge

The third wave of democratisation that spread across sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s was heralded as a moment of great optimism for fair, legitimate and inclusive politics.

Since then, multi-party elections have been marred by excessive spending, corruption, and violence, and have fallen far short of democratic standards. In Kenya, violent clashes around elections are commonplace, while elections across the region are associated with heightened fears of unrest. To promote more credible and peaceful elections in Kenya and beyond, better tools are necessary to check on the evenness of the playing field and inter-ethnic relations throughout an electoral cycle.

A successful model would allow authorities to better detect and prevent electoral injustice and political unrest.

Our approach

Working with local and international partners, Professor Lynch examined three main research strands in Kenya:

  • Ethnicity and politics, and how loyalties and identities shift over time

  • Peacebuilding and transitional justice as a means to promote social justice and improve inter-ethnic relations

  • The ways in which elections are manipulated and the priority areas for democracy support initiatives.

Professor Lynch also conducted comparative work in Ghana and Uganda, and has shared her findings in academic outputs, policy briefs and articles for Anglo-American and Kenyan papers such as the Washington Post, Newsweek, Mail, Guardian, Daily Nation, and East African.

Our impact

Professor Lynch has helped to shape public debates, influence transitional justice efforts, and inform governance programming in several African countries. Deep Election Monitoring has had context-specific impacts – it has informed decision-making about strategic priorities in both the short and longer-term, and improved calculations over where to invest limited electoral support resources – and had a methodological impact on how academics and donors engage to promote democratization.

In 2019, in recognition of the “tangible difference” her work has made “on the ground for policymakers”, Lynch and colleagues won the ESRC Award for “Outstanding International Impact” and the Market Research Society’s President’s Medal for outstanding research with impact.

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