Campaign finance

Kenya’s growing commercialisation of politics, despite IEBC’s capped spending

By Jeff Otieno

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Posted on March 4, 2022 13:15

Kenyan opposition leader Odinga to unveil 2022 presidential race candidature in Nairobi
A supporter of Kenya’s Opposition leader Raila Odinga walks past his election posters before the Azimio la Umoja rally in Kasarani, Nairobi, Kenya December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Kenya’s legislators eyeing re-election opened the floodgates to money in politics last year when they nullified restrictions on campaign financing. With the August poll fast approaching, many are wondering if their fateful decision will subvert free and fair elections that so many voters are pining for.

Migori County representative Pamela Odhiambo remembers with nostalgia election campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s when politics was less toxic and candidates focused on issues.

“When I was a young girl, politicians used to come to our village during the campaign period and even go to the farms to talk to our parents about their agenda and humbly ask for votes,” says Odhiambo.

At that time, the country was riding high after gaining independence from the British colonialists in 1963. The spirit of nationalism permeated everything and politics was dominated by former freedom fighters who were held in  high esteem by voters.

Much has changed since then. Modern-day politics has become commercialised and is often seen as a preserve for the wealthy or a springboard for get-rich-quick schemers.

Commercialisation of politics

Human rights activists have raised concerns about the current trend,

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