Kenya’s Electoral Commission (ECK) will be holding a meeting today to find ways of fighting what has been described as a vote buying phenomenon across the country. The practice could potentially undermine the credibility of this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Today’s meeting follows disenchantment with claims that some people have been buying voter cards in the past few weeks across the country.
Main opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) politicians have been alleging that the vote buying, which is on the rise, forms part of a plot by the government to rig the forthcoming elections. The scheme also includes illegal registration of voters, which ODM claims was being done with the full knowledge of the ECK. But incumbent President Mwai Kibaki’s government has dismissed the allegations as unfounded and without merit.
Kenyan political analyst Joseph Magoott tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Nairobi that the ECK must be proactive rather than submissive to problems.
“There are indications at the moment that after the opinion polls, the Raila Odinga team being in the lead, the government since has essentially been sent to panic. And speculation is rife that the government has a hand in vote buying in an attempt to deny the opposition the opportunity to essentially get into office. As we speak, there is news to the effect that the government did send individuals to Langata constituency, where the leading presidential candidate Raila Odinga is a parliamentary candidate. They did send people to go and buy three thousand Kenyan shillings (about $45) per voters card,” Magoott noted.
He said there has been attempt to make it a difficult challenge for the opposition to win the presidency in this year’s general elections.
“The idea is essentially to deny Raila Odinga the parliamentary seat. And that means therefore, even if he wins the presidency, and not the parliamentary, then that would precipitate a constitutional crisis, and therefore, deny him the presidency,” he said.
Magoott blames the electoral commission for not being up to the task.
“The problem is that, we have not really had a very competent electoral commission. The electoral commission in Kenya has become a retirement body where individuals who are all retired are essentially sent to pass time, and so they are not proactive. They are always reacting to situations that emerge on the ground,” Magoott pointed out.
He said there is speculation of attempts to alter information on unsuspecting voters.
“As it is, we also understand there have been attempts to tamper with the names and identity cards of voters. And the electoral commission has not been competent enough to essentially identify this problem,” he said.
Magoott said Kenyans wish the electoral commission would organize this year’s elections in a free and fair manner.
“We can only hope that they should be able to put their machinery in place. I think it’s all pretty much about the political will from the part of the government with regard to giving it the proper budgetary allocation. And also with regard to the electoral commission being autonomous enough to essentially to stand on its feet and direct and manage the elections in tandem in keeping with the principles of democracy and tenets of democracy,” Magoott said.