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‘The local mwananchi has lost trust’: design, transition and legitimacy in Kenyan election management*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 November 2016

Aaron Erlich*
Department of Political Science, McGill University, Leacock Building, Room 414, 855 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, QC H3A 2T7, Canada
Nicholas Kerr*
Department of Political Science, University of Alabama, ten Hoor Hall, Room 314, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0213, USA


Across African democracies, maintaining popular trust in electoral management bodies (EMBs) is vital to enhancing election integrity and, ultimately, regime legitimacy. However, scholars have largely sidestepped any systematic analysis of how citizens formulate their attitudes towards EMBs and how these attitudes vary over time. To address these gaps in the literature, we focus on Kenyan EMBs, which have experienced fluctuating popular support since the ruinous 2007 elections and subsequent institutional reforms. Using primary election reports and original survey and focus group data, we analyse the sources of Kenyans' trust in EMBs from 1992 onward and probe the 2013 election period deeply. Across time, we find that confidence in EMBs usually collapses after polarised elections, due to perceived problems with the EMB's autonomy and capacity. Following the 2013 elections, Kenyans were also more likely to lose confidence in the EMB if they were affiliated with losing presidential candidates or if they were critical of EMB performance.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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For feedback and advice on this project, we thank the Journal of Modern African Studies editors, two anonymous reviewers, Jeff Conroy-Crutz, Alma David, James Long, and participants at the International Political Science Association's (IPSA) 23rd World Congress. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency. All errors remain those of the authors. Nicholas Kerr's work was supported by the University of Alabama's Research Grant Committee [2014–50].


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