Front cover image for Room to move : political accountability of "lawmakers" in the Kenya National Assembly, 1998-2019

Room to move : political accountability of "lawmakers" in the Kenya National Assembly, 1998-2019

Over the past decade, a small minority of Kenyan legislators have invested heavily in their lawmaking duties, contributing to the transformation of the Kenya National Assembly from a rubber-stamp Parliament into a consequential actor in crafting the nation's laws. The rising assertiveness of the Kenya National Assembly is a welcome development, since strong independent legislatures are a fundamental building block of liberal democracy. However, Kenyan legislators -- as in many other emerging democracies across Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe -- face strong electoral incentives from voters to eschew their lawmaking responsibilities in favor of implementing local development projects, mediating local conflicts, and providing other forms of constituency service. Kenyan political parties magnify these electoral incentives by recruiting and rewarding candidates based on factors other than legislative ambition or past legislative accomplishments, such as a candidate's political connections, party loyalty, and ability to pay for the party nomination. So then why has a small minority of Kenyan legislators invested heavily in their lawmaking duties, while most of their parliamentary colleagues have not? In this dissertation, I address three sub-questions nested within this overarching question using a new dataset of 371,995 parliamentary speeches made by 959 legislators in the Kenya National Assembly between 1998 and 2019. First, in Chapter 2, I show that the electoral selection of "lawmaker" candidate types is predominantly responsible for variation in the lawmaking effort of Kenyan legislators, rather than electoral sanctioning pressures on legislators to invest in their lawmaking duties out of fear of electoral reprisal from voters or political parties. Second, in Chapter 3, I examine why these "lawmaker" candidate types are elected in some constituencies but not others, failing to find evidence that political violence and ethnic divisions -- two core features of Kenyan elections -- undermine the entry or selection of "lawmaker" candidates. Third, in Chapter 4, I show that the investments of Kenyan legislators in their lawmaking responsibilities do not come at the expense of constituency service, despite intense pressures from voters to prioritize constituency service above all else. Collectively, these findings imply that competitive multi-party elections in emerging democracies -- which tend to be plagued by political violence, ethnic divisions, and intense demands from voters for clientelism and constituency service -- are not incompatible with the emergence of strong independent legislatures
Thesis, Dissertation, English, 2020
[Stanford University], [Stanford, California], 2020
Stanford University