Abstract

What might have caused the post-2007 election violence in Kenya? Was it election irregularities as widely claimed or could it have been simmering ethnic-rivalries waiting to spill over? While not directly focusing on the post-election violence, we investigate a number of issues that divided Kenyans in the 2007 Presidential election. Following a rational choice framework and using survey data of voter opinions, we find that Kenyan voters are strategic, seeking to maximize their well-being and influenced by a number of factors that go beyond their ethnicity such as their absolute and relative living standards, access to public goods and also grievances arising from perceptions of discrimination. The evidence suggests that Kenyan voting behavior is economically motivated, with retrospective interests, thus contrasting other studies that consider Kenyans to be wholly identity voters. The study also reveals significant heterogeneity depending on the voters' primary loci of identification-- either in terms of their ethnicity, occupation or nationalistic terms (Kenyans). The apparent ethnic divisions have resulted in a polarized society with consequential weakening of the institutional base for economic development. The study points to the necessity of institutional reforms that can better harmonize ethnic claims and avert conflicts in the future.

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