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Ethnic Coalitions of Convenience and Commitment: Political Parties and Party Systems in Kenya


  • Sebastian Elischer

    () (Jacobs University Bremen)


This paper analyzes the role of ethnicity in shaping the character of Kenya’s political parties and its party system since 1992. Drawing on a constructivist conception of ethnicity, it uses a framework of comparison derived from Donald Horowitz and distinguishes between three party types: the mono-ethnic party, the multi-ethnic alliance type and the multi-ethnic integrative type. It shows that although Kenyan parties have increasingly incorporated diverse communities, they have consistently failed to bridge the country’s dominant ethnic cleavages. Consequently, all of Kenya’s significant parties represent ethnic coalitions of convenience and commitment and, thus, ethnic parties. The paper further states that the country’s post-2007 political environment is a by-product of the omnipresence of this party type.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Elischer, 2008. "Ethnic Coalitions of Convenience and Commitment: Political Parties and Party Systems in Kenya," GIGA Working Paper Series 68, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:68

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    7. Tim Callen & Warwick J. McKibbin & Nicoletta Batini, 2006. "The Global Impact of Demographic Change," IMF Working Papers 06/9, International Monetary Fund.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anika Moroff, 2010. "Emerging Non-OECD Countries: Global Shifts in Power and Geopolitical Regionalization," GIGA Working Paper Series 129, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    2. Mwangi S. Kimenyi & Roxana Gutierrez Romero, 2008. "Identity, Grievances, and Economic Determinants of Voting in the 2007 Kenyan Elections," Working papers 2008-38, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Social cleavages; ethnicity; political party identification; Kenya;

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