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A Personal Kenyan Voting Experience

Posted on the 07 March 2013 by Center For International Private Enterprise @CIPEglobal
Kenyans line up to vote on Monday. (Photo: VOA)

Kenyans line up to vote on Monday. (Photo: VOA)

by Ben Kiragu (CIPE Representative) 3/6/13 at 12:30 AM Kenya Time

Having registered to vote in the first Kenyan election under the new constitution at a school 10 minutes from where we live, my wife and I arrived at the polling station at 7 AM, which is early by all standards, with the expectation that we would be done in an hour as has been our past experience. We were however in for a shock as we arrived to find the polling station full of voters waiting to cast their votes, and we also learned that some had come to the polling station as early as 4 AM and had been waiting for the commencement of the voting at 6 AM.

This time around it was totally different, as the turnout was very high, perhaps indicative of how high the stakes are with this election — even managing to get the middle class who have previously been perceived as indifferent to voting. It took us five tiring hours to vote, occasioned by firstly the big turnout which resulted in long queues (in some stations as long as 5 kilometers), secondly, unlike previous elections under the old constitution where we were voting for only three elective positions (President, Member of Parliament and Councilor), the process was slower this time as we voted for 6 elective positions! (President, Governor, Senator, Women Representative, MP & Ward Representative).

Thirdly, the use of new computerized polling books to authenticate voters also added a further complication and delays to the process. But all in all given the myriad of challenges from limited time for voter education, using of new technology etc., the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission made a good effort. This was apart from attempts made by the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) to disrupt voting at the coast by ambushing police on patrol, which unfortunately left 6 dead. The elections have otherwise gone on peacefully throughout the country.

As I write this article 27 hours since the voting officially ended, only 39 percent of the polling stations (13,000 out of 33,000) have submitted their results . Prime Minister Raila Odinga of CORD has 42 percent of the votes cast while Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee has 53 percent. The delay in relaying the results which has  today seen the running mate of Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka call a press conference about 7 hours ago (5pm Kenyan time) to raise  concerns regarding delays and reassure CORD supporter that victory is still within their reach.

With the results released so far it is too early to call the election given that only 39 percent of the polling stations have announced their results. Also the new constitution requires the winning candidate to garner 50 percent plus 1 of the total votes cast, and also 25 percent of the votes cast in at least half of the counties, in this case 24. We expect the final result of the provisional presidential tally to be made known by tomorrow evening (Wednesday); however the election law gives IEBC up to 7 days after the end of voting to announce the final results.

Although people are getting apprehensive at the slow pace at which the results are trickling in there is an uneasy calm. Despite the challenges associated with running such a complex election, with all manner of expectations and suspicions after the 2007-8 debacles, the IEBC has so far been professional, transparent and have run a credible process. This credibility may however quickly be eroded if the delays in announcing the results especially the presidential election continue beyond tomorrow.

Update: Since this report was submitted, Kenyan election officials have been counting votes by hand as electronic systems broke down. Today, March 7, the party of Raila Odinga called for the count to be stopped and claims the vote is being “doctored.”

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