Monday, October 13, 2008



Monday, October 13, 2008

By Kilemi Mwiria

YES, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) bungled the presidential vote count through its indecisiveness, inefficiency and lack of transparency. Mr Samuel Kivuitu was a terrible let down to Kenyans both during the votes’ tallying, the announcement of the winner and during subsequent utterances.

His careless talk only served to fan the fires of ethnic violence. I therefore agree with those who say he should never supervise another election. His ECK team did not perform any better as evidenced by the public disagreements on the presidential tally. And they were not forced to announce any results at gunpoint.

Moreover, there were improvements they could have made on the electoral process which they did not implement although they required no major Government backing getting them done, including those related to: the recruitment and training of electoral officers; and the use of IT in conducting the tallying process. In any case, having been associated with a thoroughly discredited process it is only fair for ECK to own up. Nevertheless, how many of us dare cast the first stone?

Mr Justice Johann Kriegler reminded us of the bitter truth; most voters and candidates care less about a genuinely democratic election. When rigging becomes as democratised as it has become, it is hard for any supervisory authority to do its job effectively.

We now know that there were electoral malpractices at most polling stations in the form of: vote buying, ballot stuffing (otherwise how do you have statistically impossible voter turn outs of more than 85 per cent in some constituencies); making it impossible for people to support candidates of their choice; electoral supervisors declaring losers winners; and hate campaign. ECK was also under pressure from politicians.

It is, therefore, one sided to castigate Kivuitu and his team on account of only the Presidential vote when virtually everything else went wrong. Why do we have no trouble with rigging at the polling stage but complain very loudly about the presidential tally because it does not favour us?

Note the Government was ambivalent on renewal of Kivuitu’s term having demonstrated his impartiality during the referendum when he celebrated with ODM after he announced the results. He still got the support of civil rights groups, religious leaders, foreign diplomats and sections of the media. Some of these may have had a genuine interest in an objective General Election. Others were afraid the opposition could reject the outcome of the election as rigged if Government was viewed as having imposed a candidate.

I urge those who have decided to scapegoat Kivuitu and the ECK to read Chapter Three of the Kriegler report. Apparently we could have avoided the bloodshed of 2007 if some of the recommendations by ECK since 2002 (including after the referendum) on improving our electoral system had been implemented.

Among these recommendations are those related to: the period between the announcement of the Presidential candidate and their swearing in; enforcement of the electoral code of conduct; strengthening of the electoral court; ensuring that the system of serving election petitions does not favour losers; making the appointment of ECK commissioners more transparent; the ideal size of the Commission; making the Commission answerable to Parliament to improve its independence; and on establishing a truly professional ECK Secretariat.

In 2006, ECK also came up with suggestions on the redrawing of electoral boundaries which Parliament rejected. Proposals on the creation of a PM position and on minimum reforms before the General Election were also rejected by Parliament. Furthermore, MPs opted to go by their tribal parties in 2007 thus contributing to hate campaign during and after the elections.

So the last Parliament has its share of the blame. Likewise, many in the current Parliament are beneficiaries of a bad electoral process. The 10th Parliament should seize the moment to enact at least those changes that will make the 2012 General Election more credible.