Political Corruption in Africa
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Political Corruption in Africa

Extraction and Power Preservation

Edited by Inge Amundsen

Analysing political corruption as a distinct but separate entity from bureaucratic corruption, this timely book separates these two very different social phenomena in a way that is often overlooked in contemporary studies. Chapters argue that political corruption includes two basic, critical and related processes: extractive and power-preserving corruption.
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Chapter 3: ‘Big Men’ and poor voters: political corruption and elections in Kenya

Michelle D’Arcy


This chapter assesses the various forms of corruption that occur during elections in Kenya, and probes whether power-preserving and/or extractive political corruption are at play. Drawing on qualitative interviews conducted with candidates and campaign officials during the 2013 gubernatorial campaigns in four counties in Kenya, it shows how voter-driven demand for politicians to act in particular culturally prescribed ways fuels practices before and during elections – such as patronage and vote buying – that many see as forms of corruption. While these behaviours are power preserving in helping incumbents win re-election, they are also culturally expected within the ‘Big Man’ mould of African politics and they are rational in terms of the incentives that poor voters are facing. However, these expectations and the rationale create incentives for extractive corruption. Besides, the prohibitive costs of campaigning, in a context of poor campaign funding and controls, create strong incentives for politicians to engage in extractive corruption to finance their campaigns. Cumulatively, these observations suggest that elections, and the expectations of voters, are one of the significant drivers of political corruption in Kenya.

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