In This Review
Multiethnic Democracy: The Logic of Elections and Policymaking in Kenya
Oxford University Press, 2022, 224 pp.
Conventional wisdom has it that in African countries such as Kenya, where the political salience of ethnicity is very strong, politicians will focus their campaigns on narrow promises of material benefits to their co-ethnic voters. This generalization is misleading on at least two counts, as Horowitz demonstrates in an original study of the role of ethnicity in recent Kenyan elections. Appealing only to one’s co-ethnics will not generate a majority vote in Kenya, as no ethnic group can claim more than a fifth of the population; politicians have to appeal to other groups to win national and many subnational elections. In addition, plenty of evidence suggests that ethnic attachment is not the only motivation for voters, who are often driven more by economic considerations than by the bonds of identity. Using carefully collected data on voters and on the dominant discourse in recent campaigns, Horowitz shows that Kenyan elections are fought over swing voters, who are typically not co-ethnics of any of the major candidates. Kenyan political leaders design their campaigns around broad, inclusive policy goals that will expressly appeal to all groups.
Source URL: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/multiethnic-democracy-logic-elections-and-policymaking-kenya