Following a question from a friend about the 2017 results, I decided to do a deep-dive into how well Kenya's elected MPs have done in each subsequent general election since independence. I have been collecting and maintaining a record of every Kenyan MP since 1963 and every contest in which they participated. This can be used – amongst other things – to answer basic question on electoral success and elite refreshment which probably cannot be answered anywhere else.
This analysis looks only at elected constituency and district/county MPs, Senators and Governors. Party list and individual nominees are excluded throughout. All by-elections are taken into account, so the data set is reasonably complete (I'm missing one MP in a couple of years, but it is not material).
The results since independence are as follows:
Beginning with 1969, in that election only 35% of the 158 incumbents elected in 1963 or thereafter were returned by voters. The previous six years had been a period of great change, and the candidates that had been selected by KANU, KADU and the APP in 1963 and then elected on party tickets were facing very different expectations and demands, with a single-party unicameral system, compared to the multi-party bicameral one at independence. Eight MPs (in dark blue above) were in prison, as the KPU had just been banned and Odinga and his close allies jailed without trial.
By 1974, with the political system far more stable and President Kenyatta's rule unchallenged, the proportion of incumbents re-elected rose to 47%. In 1979, it rose even further, to 49%. This was perhaps surprising as it was the first year in office of President Moi, but the competitive first past-the-post system in a no-party state now had it own dynamic, and without extensive rigging, Moi's attempts to drive change were not always successful locally. This was even more notable in the snap election of 1983, when insurgents had less time to prepare their campaigns. Rather than cleansing the political system of his opponents, the 1983 election saw the highest proportion of incumbents re-elected of any election. 1988, the extensively rigged queue-voting elections, saw greater change with just under half of MPs re-elected and a tranche of little known and unpopular placemen installed.
In 1992, with the restoration of multi-party democracy, most of the 'class of 88' were evicted. The changeover was the most fundamental of any election, with only a quarter of incumbents managing the bridge the transition between two systems and a complete new class of politicians entering the "system". In 1997, Moi's last election, the proportion rose once more, to 41%. In 2002, the transitional election which KANU and Uhuru Kenyatta lost, it rose further to 44%. (It seems that long-term the Kenyan political system trends towards a 40-45% re-election rate barring exceptional circumstances). In 2007, the strong performance of ODM candidates and the complex multi-party competitions within the PNU alliance resulted in a sharp fall, to only 34% of incumbents returned. Two-thirds of the MPs in January 2008 had not been there at the dissolution.
In contrast, 2013 was the first election under the second republic, with the number of political offices available doubled, with more constituencies, senators, elected women's representatives (reserved seats for women elected at county level) and governors all up for grabs. Virtually no-one quit after losing the party primaries and virtually all politicians tried to be elected somewhere. 78 out of the 210 incumbent MPs tried to become Senators, Governors, Presidents and Vice-Presidents. The majority lost, but 30 successfully made the transition to the Senate or Governorship. No incumbent tried to become a women’s representative, the county-level role reserved for female politicians as a gender equality affirmative action initiative. The 16 elected female MPs at the dissolution in 2013 all decided to stay with their constituency or become governors or senators.
By 2017, with the bicameral system and the party fault-lines stabilising and the roles of the various offices better understood, reelection rates would have been expected to rise. In fact, there was still a lot of shifting around, with both Senators and MPs trying to become Governors, now clearly the dominant political posts outside the executive presidency. Re-election rates fell slightly to 42%, as much due to intra-party primary elections as the final contest (this considers a MP who successfully becomes a Governor as for example “re-elected”).
Diving deeper into the 2017 numbers: