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African Geographical Review
Volume 29, Issue 1 (June 2010)

Research Article

Politics of Residency, Friends and Neighbors Effect, and Voting Patterns in Kwanza Constituency, Kenya, 1988-2000

Romborah Simiyu (Moi University, Kenya)

The friends and neighbors effect refers to the tendency for voters to support candidates from their home areas regardless of party affiliation, ostensibly because such candidates are better known to them, have a better grasp of local issues, share in local interests and would therefore be more motivated to address local problems if elected. Not so in the multi-ethnic Kwanza constituency where ‘foreign’ candidates have won each of six elections since the creation of the constituency in 1987, despite the residents’ persistent desire to be represented in parliament by a co-resident. Against a backdrop of the highly ethicized Kenyan political environment, elections are perceived as a zero sum game of winners and losers by competing ethnic groups supporting particular political parties.  These ethnic-based partisanships have tended to obscure the politics of residency in the constituency. The former has shaped patterns of social and geographical interaction among voters, between voters and candidates, and influenced voters’ assessment of candidates’ issue platforms and political rhetoric. Hence, ‘foreign’ candidates who belonged to the ‘right’ parties always triumphed over local candidates associated with the ‘wrong’ parties.

Key words: home area support, contextual influences, friends and neighbors effect, voting behavior, Kenya.