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Cablegate: Parliamentary by-Elections: Pro-Kibaki Party Wins

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LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PREL KE
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENTARY BY-ELECTIONS: PRO-KIBAKI PARTY WINS
3/5; KANU PAYS FOR DITCHING ODM ALLIES

REF: NAIROBI 3214

1. (SBU) Summary: NARC-Kenya's victory in three of five July
24 parliamentary by-elections was a much needed endorsement
for the Kibaki government following several months of
setbacks from November's referendum defeat and the public
exposure of the massive Anglo Leasing corruption scandal.
The newborn party's success in two traditionally KANU
constituencies sends a message to the opposition that despite
the government's shortcomings, KANU cannot go it alone. The
Electoral Commission of Kenya's transparent and professional
polling contrasted with credible reports of bribery and
inappropriate use of government resources, underscoring that
administratively Kenya can run a clean election, but the
politicians are a slower study. END SUMMARY.

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ELECTORAL COMMISSION PERFORMED WELL
-----------------------------------
2. (SBU) Amid allegations of inappropriate use of state
resources by campaigning NARC-Kenya members, and voter
bribery on the part of KANU, the July 24 by-elections in five
Kenyan constituencies -- Nakuru Town near Nairobi, and North
Horr, Saku, Laisamis, and Moyale, in north Kenya -- proceeded
successfully, with no incidents of violence or intimidation.
The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) once again ran a
transparent, well-regulated election. At the more than 70
polling stations visited by coordinated diplomatic observers,
including from our Mission, electoral officials complied with
procedures in a professional, non-partisan manner. Taking
into account the pastoral population, in the four northern
constituencies the ECK deployed "mobile polling stations."
These voting booths were sent to a location determined by
where voters were concentrated just prior to election day.

3. (SBU) Observers noted a high turnout of women voters,
although no women candidates, including two widows vying for
the seats of their deceased husbands, were successful. The
media, many members of which made the long trip to Marsabit
and Moyale, are credited with highlighting campaigners'
abuses, broadcasting images of a Minister arriving at a
pre-election rally in Marsabit in an air force plane. Voters
in some constituencies were easily able to identify
government of Kenya vehicles whose license plates had been
replaced to obscure their official origin. Vote buying by
both KANU and NARC-Kenya was documented as well.

KIBAKI GETS A BREAK, FINALLY
----------------------------
4. (SBU) The by-elections were a proving ground for the 2007
general election. NARC-Kenya, and hence the Kibaki
government, has emerged buoyed, confident of its prospects as
a national party with reach well beyond the Kikuyu heartland.
On the last day of campaigning, Kibaki openly endorsed the
NARC-Kenya candidate, at the same time as the latest public
opinion poll placed him ahead of his nearest presidential
competitor, LDP's Kalonzo Musyoka. KANU, however, has
suffered a major set back, unable to maintain that its defeat
in 2002 was simply an aberration. Whatever expectations
Kenyans had of the Kibaki government that remain unfulfilled,
they evidently would not prefer a return of KANU. The defeat
in two of four northern constituencies, in which he had
previously been so influential, is a nail in former president
Moi's political coffin from which he had tried to exhume
himself during the run-up to the by-election. It is also a
repudiation of Moi's go-it-alone policy for KANU and may mark
a return to coalition politics for the humbled former ruling
party.

TAKING STOCK FOR 2007
---------------------
5. (SBU) Although the election result may have some effect
on the government-opposition split in Parliament, more
significant is how the parties will interpret the outcome in
formulating their strategies for the 2007 general election.
The by-election vote is a net loss of two seats for the
opposition, but the margin between them and the government is
closer to 20 seats. This tally of seats, however, only holds
if NARC, or what's left of it, stays on the government side
of the aisle. Reports following the July 24 election suggest
that disaffection among the remnants of the 2002 coalition is
growing.

6. (SBU) The broader implication of the by-election, given
most politicians' focus on 2007, is how opposition and
government will configure themselves for next year.
NARC-Kenya, newly conceived and supported by a large swathe
of ministers and pro-government MPs, is yet to proclaim who
its presidential nominee will be. Their likely candidate,
Kibaki, has not formally declared his allegiance to the new
party. This may be a technicality - if an MP officially
changes parties he must be reelected to office - (although
this rule has not stopped others from abandoning the original
NARC), or it may be an effort to keep his NARC (Kikuyu)
support base consolidated by not alienating the NARC elements
that have not gone over to NARC-Kenya. That said, NARC-Kenya
and NARC did both field opposing candidates in some of the
races, the latter quite unsuccessfully.

7. (SBU) KANU, on the other hand, will have to reconsider
its reluctance to ally with LDP; although LDP deferred to
KANU in the four northern contests, KANU's rebuff of the ODM
alliance cost it the votes of the few LDP supporters there
are in that region. This may have made a difference in the
two races in which the margin was a 1,000 votes or less. In
Nakuru, LDP and KANU ran candidates against each other.
Their total votes, if combined, would have been nearly
sufficient to defeat the NARC-Kenya candidate, a point LDP's
Raila Odinga has not failed to make. KANU will also have to
rethink Moi's usefulness as a party figurehead. The former
president does not have the influence he once did.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Another round of polling has passed in
Kenya without the rigging and bloodshed that characterized
elections in the country's not-so-distant past. NARC-Kenya's
victory in two traditionally KANU domains, as well as in
Nakuru, as expected, may signal that Kenyans want national,
multi-ethnic parties instead of ones based on regional and
tribal considerations. Nonetheless, NARC-Kenya's performance
is indelibly stained by the credible allegations that its
supporters abused their access to government resources. END
COMMENT.

9. (U) Following is the text of the July 26 press statement
issued by the diplomatic missions which observed the
by-elections.

PRESS RELEASE

We, the undersigned Heads of diplomatic missions based in
Nairobi, were invited by the Electoral Commission of Kenya to
participate as observers of the by-elections held on 24 July
in Laisamis, Moyale, Nakuru, North Horr and Saku. Twenty-one
members of staff from our diplomatic missions, accredited as
observers by the ECK, visited more than seventy polling
stations in the five constituencies.

We commend officials and staff of the ECK for their efforts
to conduct a professional and transparent by-election
process. Our observers did not witness any instances of
intimidation or violence at the locations visited on polling
day. We observed ECK officials consistently complying with
election regulations in a non-partisan, professional manner.

We are concerned by credible reports of misuse of state
resources for partisan campaigning by government officials,
including ministers, in violation of electoral regulations.
We are also concerned by credible reports of attempted
bribery of voters by representatives of some political
parties. We call on leaders of all parties to enforce the
highest standards of conduct by their members and to ensure
their members do not engage in such abuses in future
elections.

We will continue to follow Kenya's democratic process in the
spirit of partnership that has characterized our support for
this country and its people.

Canada, the European Commission Delegation, Norway, the
United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
HOOVER

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