Monday, March 11, 2013

Electoral commission owes us an explanation

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 10 March 2013

Last Monday, Kenyans finally conducted the first elections under our new Constitution.
These elections were meant to mark a new beginning in our national life, a break from a past we were in a hurry to get away from. Kenyans subsequently handled themselves admirably despite the issues that arose during and after the elections.

From my point of view, we do not deserve to be overly congratulated for this. It is the responsibility of every upright citizen to conduct their affairs in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of others. When the citizen obeys this injunction, the only reward is the assurance that the law will protect them from those that would cause mayhem and disorder in society.

The fact that Kenyans behaved in a largely civilised manner during and immediately after the elections therefore only goes to confirm that over time, we are gradually getting better at dealing with our problems. The only reason Kenyans can claim accolades for their behaviour is that they resisted extreme provocation from the one institution that was supposed to give them the least amount of grief, given the amount of resources that we have poured into it.

In my view, the Electoral Commission bungled the election big-time, and the fact that the whole enterprise is still in office is testimony to the patience and civility of Kenyans.

First, they promised that the voter identification procedures at polling stations would be electronic, in order to prevent inflation of voter turnout statistics. In most of the country, this process failed, leading to suspicions of mischief.

Second, the Commission indicated that provisional results would first be beamed instantaneously to the Elections Headquarters at Bomas of Kenya and to the media and other interested parties. After streaming figures characterised by suspiciously high numbers of rejected votes for a while, the process was suddenly stopped. The Commission claimed that the equipment meant to transmit or store the data had failed, necessitating the stoppage of results transmission.

Third, the Commission had earlier indicated that the tallying and release of presidential results (even in the interim) would take precedence over all other positions. The reason given for this was that in the last General Election, a delay in announcement of the presidential result was thought to be one of the causes of violence in the country. One can therefore imagine the surprise of many Kenyans when all the results were delivered except those of the presidential race.

It is therefore my contention that any success in carrying out this election peacefully can only be attributed to the choice by Kenyans to take the hitches in their stride, rather than any technical competence by the electoral commission. In any case, there was no technical difference between the procedure at this election and that of the 2007 General Election.

In my view, this commission will have several questions to answer in the coming days.

They will have to account for the billions of shillings spent on equipment and staff in preparation for this election. They will have to explain what went wrong with the laid down procedures, and what led to the breakdown in the tallying and release of results.

They will also have to convince us why we should ever allow them to carry out another election in this country. 

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association, and a senior lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine

1 comment:

  1. my 2 cents. why are we crucifying the IEBC? Kenyan society is defined by its failed institutions: health services, transport, criminal justice, education, land and so on.
    the top players in the election don't know this. everything works for them. that is why they are crying foul.
    for the rest of us this is what life is all about- dealing with inept institutions.


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