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Kenya vote totals released 4 months later

July 18, 2013

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Four months after Kenya’s presidential vote, the country’s election commission on Thursday released vote totals for all races, though the commission chairman’s refused to take an oath before parliament and testify for a committee.

Isaak Hassan, the chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commissions, left the hearing without testifying but the commission later released all vote totals for the first time since the March vote.

Kenya’s election was largely peaceful, and though the reporting and tallying of votes was marred by several irregularities, the country largely accepted the judgment of the Supreme Court that President Uhuru Kenyatta was legitimately elected — albeit by the slimmest of margins: 50.07 percent of the vote.

The loser, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who lodged the Supreme Court appeal, accepted the court’s decision, helping Kenya to avoid the vicious tribal post-poll violence that killed more than 1,000 people in 2007-08.

But Odinga maintains that the vote was rigged, telling Kenya’s Daily Nation in May that his opponents were stuffing ballot boxes and that the presidential vote received 1 million more votes in total than other races. A second Nairobi paper, The Star, later quoted an anonymous IEBC commissioner saying that the commission hasn’t been able to reconcile the presidential vote totals — which have been released — with those of the other races, resulting in “sleepless nights.”

The commission on Thursday released vote totals that show no such discrepancy. The commission said 12.2 million ballots were cast for president. Some 60,000 fewer were cast for governor races and some 90,000 fewer were cast for senatorial races. Nearly 165,000 fewer were cast for country assembly ward representatives.

“Contrary to what has been circulating in the public domain, the difference in votes cast per each elective position is not significant as alleged,” the commission said. “The variance, which is about 1 percent, may be attributed to some voters choosing or being able to vote only for certain positions.”

Hassan called the claim that there is 1 million vote difference a “naked lie,” speaking this week on Kenyan television. But his refusal Thursday to take an oath before parliament testimony did little assuage conspiracy theorists. The commission said it did not receive individual summons to appear before the committee. “Therefore, the committee did not find it necessary to take an oath,” an IEBC statement said.

“It just adds to the confusion,” said Patrick Gathara, a Nairobi political cartoonist who runs a blog that frequently centers on politics. He said it shouldn’t have taken the commission so long to release the results. “There’s something fundamentally wrong here. There’s no way that this is an election with a clean bill of health.”

John Githongo, an adviser to former President Mwai Kibaki on ethics and governance who resigned and then exposed government corruption, wrote in a recent newspaper column that many Kenyans find it comforting “that the gut feeling that something slick, big and nasty was likely pulled off at the last election is seemingly now proving to be more and more likely correct.”

That gut feeling appears to be backed by up opinion poll results. A poll released this month by Ipsos Synovate of 2,000 Kenyans found that 32 percent of respondents had faith in the electoral commission. That’s down from a February poll that found 62 percent of Kenyans with faith in the voting commission.

Despite whatever doubts Kenyans have about the commission, the July poll also found that 51 percent of respondents had faith in Kenyatta, the president, the highest score of any politician or body in the country.

Gathara, who said he did not vote in the March election, blamed Kenya’s journalists for not holding the election commission to account. The Kenya’s Media Owners Association made a “gentleman’s agreement” during the election to balance the national interest and the public’s right to know, including not reporting anything that could incite ethnic tensions and not airing political statements live.

Gathara said more journalists are now asking “questions that they didn’t ask before.”

“I think there’s this sort of feeling of, ‘Let’s move on.’ Move on to what? The IEBC is asked to conduct a general election, and in another four or five years’ time it will be asked to conduct another election,” said Gathara. “And if we don’t reform it, if we don’t change it, who’s to say they will do a better job then?”

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