Kenya’s electoral body says the technology to be used in this year’s elections will not fail. The opposition is warning of unspecified consequences if elections are rigged for the ruling Jubilee party.
Kenya is preparing for its sixth general election in August. Political tensions are high, and fear the country will see a repeat of the deadly violence that followed the 2007 election is growing.
But the electoral commission says it is up to the task of delivering a credible election reflecting the will of the people.
Previous system collapse
The commission is still haunted by its handling of the 2013 polls, in which most of the electronic equipment collapsed a few hours into election day.
The head of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, executive officer Ezra Chiloba, says the failures were partly due to the late arrival of the election kits.
“Transferring voter register from the main database to here, it was chaotic. That is why some of the machines were not used in the last general election. But during by-elections we have used these ones, and they work very well,” said Chiloba.
FILE - In this March 6, 2013 photo, official representatives of the various political parties and electoral workers discuss while reviewing newly received results, at the National Tallying Center in Nairobi, Kenya.
Commission technology administrator Meikan Gabriel says the equipment did not fail in 2013; it was the people using it.
“I remember I was in the field, and what I can attest is transmission went well up to a certain time until when the network was so congested. When it came to sending, some people gave up sending the results," said Gabriel. "It was portrayed though as the technology had failed, but the lack of patience even for those who have been transmitting contributed to the entire thing.”
Conducting dozens of by-elections in the past couple of years, the electoral body has been able to deliver credible and fast results; but, many wonder if the commission will be able to conduct the national vote the same way.
FILE - Kenyan voters line up to cast their votes in the Kibera slum, Nairobi, March 4, 2013.
Addressing opposition supporters in Nairobi, former prime minister Raila Odinga said his party will not accept rigged elections.
“I wish to urge all opposition supporters to discard the fears that Jubilee [party] will steal August elections," he said. "They will not. We shall not allow it. We shall make it impossible for anyone to steal the election. We are also sending a word to Jubilee again the cost of stealing this election will be regrettable.”
FILE - Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga speaking to U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec during an election results watch breakfast at the ambassador’s home in Nairobi, 9 Nov. 2016.
The fear of rigged election has been exacerbated by the electoral law that allows the commission to use the manual system in case the technology fails.
Senator Kipchumba Murkomen of the ruling Jubilee party accused the opposition of preparing the country for political violence.
“We do not want them to hype the country towards violence, because really we have enough issues to debate and campaign on. On Jubilee, we have enough programs and development agenda. Our political competitors can look for manifesto points that they can challenge us,” said Murkomen.
The opposition has called for its supporters to register in large numbers. Voter registration begins January 16 and ends February 14.