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Kenya's Biometric Technology Could Delay Election Preps


FILE - Members of Kenya's ruling Jubilee coalition carry a banner as they demonstrate in support of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, June 8, 2016.

Kenya's Electoral Commission says political wrangles and tension related to biometric voter technology may delay preparations for the country's upcoming elections. The opposition is threatening protests over a proposed amendment to Kenya's electoral law.

Kenya's Senate legal committee is reviewing public comments about a controversial amendment to the electoral law the lower House passed late last month.

The bill would allow manual voting and also allow the commission to manually submit election results in case biometric voter technology fails during the August election.

Electoral commissioners said they requested the amendment because they do not want to lock out some voters who might not be identified by the biometric registration kits.

Former Council of Governors chairman, Bomet County Governor Isaac Rutto told the Senate legal committee the manual system could be manipulated.

“Out there Kenyans want just fairness. They are not interested in the tyranny of your numbers inside the houses. The real issue is the voters who do not turn up and ended up voting for them manually, identifying them manually,” said Rutto.

This is not the only Electoral Commission request that has been challenged.

FILE - Kenyan voters line up to cast their votes in the Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya.
FILE - Kenyan voters line up to cast their votes in the Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya.

Voter registry

A Kenyan court stopped the electoral body from awarding a bid to auditing firm KPMG to clean the voter register. The court also suspended $25 million tender for printing ballot papers given to a Dubai- based company, saying the bid was marred with irregularities.

Electoral Commission deputy head Betty Nyabuto said political players are making preparations for the election difficult.

“I think we are largely prepared for this election I really do not see any huge challenge. The huge challenge will basically be out there with the external players they need to give us that operational space for us as a commission to do our work,” said Nyabuto.

Political commentator Martin Andati warns any quick fixes to the electoral process may result in post-election violence.

“If you are doing amendments haphazardly the way [we] are doing we are bound to have problems during the voting time ... so that will cause a problem and if we do not have [a] credible and accepted election then we are bound to have chaos,” he said.

FILE - Kenyan voter holds a presidential ballot at a polling station in the Kibera slum in a general election in Nairobi, Kenya.
FILE - Kenyan voter holds a presidential ballot at a polling station in the Kibera slum in a general election in Nairobi, Kenya.

Registration process

The electoral body plans a mass voter registration from January 16 to February 14.

The registration activities may be affected by opposition plans to start street protests if the Senate passes the electoral law amendments.

The Senate is to meet Thursday to debate the amendments and vote on the recommendations from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

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