Kenya Political System

Political system

Short for KE by Abbreviationfinder, the Republic of Kenya was given a new constitution in 2010, after years of political struggles surrounding its design. It means better balance of power and increased decentralization. The president’s former far-reaching power has been limited in favor of a new two-chamber parliament and some powers have been transferred to 47 new counties with elected governors and regional assemblies.

The Constitution guarantees citizens basic rights such as freedom of speech and religion, equal conditions for men and women, and the right for suspected criminals to receive a fair trial.

  • Countryaah: Total population and chart of Kenya for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.

The former constitution was added at independence in 1963 but was amended several times. From 1982, Kenya was officially a one-party state, but in 1991, multi-party systems were incorporated into the constitution. The changes gradually expanded the president’s power.

The President has the executive power, leads the government’s work and is the country’s commander-in-chief. The president also appoints the ministers, who according to the new constitution are not allowed to sit in parliament.

Since the 2013 elections, the National Assembly has 349 members elected for a five-year term. Of these, 290 are elected by majority vote in one-man constituencies and 47 are elected to special places dedicated to women, one from each county. The remaining 12 members are nominated by the largest parties in accordance with the election results, and will represent young people, people with disabilities and workers. The President is elected by the other members and becomes a 350th member. The National Assembly is allowed to approve the president’s election of ministers, and has the opportunity to dismiss both them and the president himself.

The Senate has 67 members: 47 who are elected from each of the counties, 16 women nominated by the largest parties and 2 representing young people and 2 representing disabled people. The senators also elect an outsider as president.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are held every five years. Following a constitutional amendment in 1992, the president may be elected for a maximum of two five-year terms. To win in the first round, a candidate must get at least 50 percent of the vote in the entire country, and at least 25 percent in half of all electoral districts. If no candidate succeeds, a new round of elections must be held within 30 days between the two candidates who received the most votes.

The voting age is 18 years.

Just over a month before the August 2017 election, the Nairobi Court of Appeal ruled that the final outcome of an election should be decided at the constituency level, and not as before by the National Electoral Commission. Action is taken to avoid electoral fraud.

Political parties

The Kenyan party system is weak and ethnic belonging often plays a major role in politics. Corruption is widespread and political loyalty can be bought. It is not uncommon for politicians to change parties. Before elections, it is common for new parties and alliances to form. Before elections, new parties and alliances are often formed. Party splits are common and easily create name confusion. At one time, for example, there were simultaneously a Ford-People, a Ford-Kenya, a Ford-Asili and a New Ford-Kenya (see below).

Ahead of the 2017 elections, 41 political parties participated. All parties receiving at least 5 percent of the vote in a national election are entitled to state party support.

Prior to the August 2017 elections, there were two dominant groups. The ruling Jubilee Party (JP), which is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s party, and the National Super Alliance (Nasa) under the leadership of opposition leader Raila Odinga (see below). JP, is strong among the Kikuys, the Kenyan people’s group, which has long held a strong position in Kenyan politics, as well as among the Kalenjins, the people to which Vice President William Ruto belongs (see also Current politics) and the smaller folk group Meru. The opposition within Nasa largely represents groups and regions that have historically been excluded from power. Nasa is strongest among luo, to which Odinga belongs, luhya and kamba.

An important difference between the two groups is that JP wanted to gather a large part of the power in Nairobi, while Nasa wants power to be decentralized. In terms of economic policy, JP stands to the right of the political scale, while at least Odinga’s own party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which is an important part of Nasa, is to the left of the political center.

JP had great successes in the parliamentary elections in August 2017 and the Election Commission quickly declared that Kenyatta won the presidential election. However, the latter was rejected by the Supreme Court in early September and a new election was held in October of the same year (see Current Policy).

Kenya’s African National Union (Kenya African National Union, Kanu) has long been the only allowed party. Kanu dominated politics from independence in 1963. Party leader and president was Jomo Kenyatta until his death in 1978, when Vice President Daniel arap Moi took over as president. Moi led the party and the country until 2002, when Kanu lost the election. One important reason was opposition to Moi’s election of presidential candidate: Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the former president. He was then relatively unknown and lacked strong support in the party.

The contradictions surrounding Kenyatta’s candidacy led to a number of ministers leaving Kanu and joining an opposition alliance called the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc). The alliance included representatives of all major ethnic groups. Narc was described as a fragile reasoning marriage between widely differing political parties and politicians, many of whom had previously been bitter enemies. Narc appointed Mwai Kibaki as its presidential candidate.

Kibaki and Narc won the 2002 election by a wide margin. But Narc then fell apart, mainly because of disagreement about the attempts to create a new constitution. Gradually, parts of the alliance withdrew completely and Kibaki was forced to bring in new ministers. Among them were representatives of both Kanu and the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-the People (Ford-People).

The original Ford was formed by six opposition leaders when multi-party rule was reintroduced in 1991. The party was divided into two in 1992: Ford-Kenya and Ford-Asili. The third, Ford-People, originated when Ford-Asili split in 1997.

In connection with a referendum on a new constitution in 2005, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was formed. The leader was Raila Odinga, who was a member of the government until Kibaki kicked out ministers who opposed the constitutional proposal. The movement became a party that split into two parts in August 2007: ODM led by Odinga and ODM-Kenya led by Kalonzo Musyoka. At the end of 2011, ODM-Kenya changed its name to Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya (WDM-K). ODM and WDM-K reunited for the 2013 election in a collaboration called the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord), which also included Ford-Kenya and a number of other parties. Prior to the 2017 election, Cord was transformed into a new multi-ethnic alliance under the name National Super Alliance (National Super Alliance, NASA). The alliance elected Raila Odinga as its presidential candidate in 2017, but the individual parties stood separately in the parliamentary elections. The latter is considered to have disadvantaged them, as Nasa allied candidates took votes from each other, which played JP candidates in their hands. However, the collaboration began to crack down on the election (see Current policy).

In 2012, Uhuru left Kenyatta Kanu and instead became a candidate for the 2013 National Alliance (TNA) election.

In the same year, William Ruto formed the United Republican Party (United Republican Party, URP). Ruto had previously belonged to Kanu and later ODM, and had been Minister of the Interior, Agriculture and Education.

Deputy Prime Minister Musaila Mudavadi – who also has been a member of both Kanu and ODM and held several ministerial posts – formed the United Democratic Forum (United Democratic Forum, UDF or sometimes UDFP).

In December 2012 began Kenyatta’s TNA and URP Rutos to work for the election of Jubilee Alliance (Jubilee Alliance). A couple of small parties also joined the alliance that won the (slightly postponed) elections in March 2013. In 2015, it was announced that the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) replaced the previous parties, but already in September 2016, parts of JAP merged with several other parties and formed Jubileumspartiet (JP). In the parliamentary elections JP got his own majority in the National Assembly.

Mudavadi and his UDF also joined the Jubilee Alliance at first, but soon broke out again. UDF instead formed Amani Coalition (Amani Coalition) with several other parties. Mudavadi was named the new group’s presidential candidate in 2013. However, Mudavadi left the UDF in 2015 to lead the new party Amani National Congress (Amani National Congress) which later joined Nasa.


Mombasa Republican Council (Mombasa Republican Council, MRC) is a separatist movement that wants to establish an independent state around Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, which is also an important tourist resort. The MRC was formed in 1999 in protest against what was said to be discrimination and marginalization of the residents of the then Coastal Province. The government calls the MRC a terrorist group and accuses it of conspiring with the Somali Islamist movement al-Shabaab, something the group’s leadership denies. The authorities banned MRC in 2010, but the ban was lifted in court in 2012.

Kenya Urban Population



Canoe shatters

A faction within Kanu claims that Kenyatta can no longer be leader of Kenya’s African National Union (Kanu) because he belongs to another party, and nominates Nicholas Biwott as new party leader. Now there are two groups that call themselves Kanu. Saitoti and Murungi, who resigned in February, are returning to their ministerial posts, further eroding President Kibaki’s credibility as a fight against corruption. Several measures he has taken to remedy the widespread corruption have proved to be half-hearted.


A new party is formed

ODM (see November 2005) is transformed into a political party founded by Odinga and Kanu leader Uhuru Kenyatta.


Kibaki forms a new party

The government coalition Narc has fallen apart in its constituents. Ahead of the election elections held after five MPs were killed in a plane crash in April, the circle of hard-pressed President Kibaki is forming a new party, Narc-Kenya. The new party will immediately have a seat in Parliament.


Ministers resign after corruption scandals

Three ministers are forced to resign because of investigations into two notable corruption scandals: Finance Minister David Mwiraria and Energy Minister Kirati Murungi because of the Anglo Leasing deal involving bribery and other government procurement irregularities, and George Saitoti because of the Goldenberg scandal involving looting treasury under Moi’s rule in the 1990s.