Treacherous Coat-tails: Gubernatorial Endorsements and the Presidential Race in Kenya's 2017 Election
Journal of Eastern African Studies Special Issue on Kenya's 2017 Election, Forthcoming
32 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 23, 2018
Kenya's devolved Constitution complicated existing political dynamics in the country. With the newly-created and highly attractive positions of county governor in particular, down-ticket races became a lot more competitive, forcing parties to make some difficult choices in terms of campaign focus, the apportioning of resources across the ballots, and how to maintain or forge alliances with local leaders whose networks were key to success in the battlegrounds. Presidential candidates found themselves in a precarious position: endorsing governor aspirants in competitive races could lead to a backlash and cost them votes, failure to endorse could signal lack of confidence in key figures and thus potentially jeopardize all six positions on the ballot. This paper derives insights from theories of coat-tail effects and applies them to better understand the relationship between the races for governor and president in Kenya’s 2017 election. I argue that coat-tail effects are conditional on governors receiving clear and public endorsements by the presidential candidates and that effects flow from presidential candidates to governor aspirants in parties’ strongholds, and vice-versa in battleground counties. The incumbent Jubilee party was better able to harness gubernatorial coat-tail effects because of its ability to field single candidates and entice popular local leaders to either join the ticket or stand down in favour of ticket holders. The findings have broader implications for theories of coat-tail effects, campaign strategy, legislative fragmentation, and citizen-politician linkages in settings with personality-based politics and weakly-institutionalised parties.
Keywords: Coattails, Kenya, Devolution, Elections, Election Campaigns
JEL Classification: O55, R50, R58
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation