Re-evaluating international observation of Kenya’s 2017 elections

Thomas Molony*, Robert Macdonald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the August 2017 Kenyan elections, many commentators – including journalists, academics, politicians and non-elite Kenyan voters – criticised international election observation missions on the grounds that they had declared the election ‘free and fair’. This article argues that specific allegations of incompetence and bias fail to acknowledge how international observers’ preliminary statements restrained from offering final verdicts or commenting upon the tallying process in which the problems emerged. Rather, due to a combination of the media environment and popular expectations about observers’ work, the complexity of their statements was lost as their findings were disseminated. This suggests that a fairer critique of international observers would focus on how they communicate, including when they decide to make their statements. It also shows that both the circulation of information relating to observers and popular perceptions of observation missions are important issues, despite being relatively overlooked by scholars working on election observation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-620
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Issue number4
Early online date23 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Kenya
  • election observation
  • international observers
  • 2017 elections
  • politics


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