A Kenyan appellate court, dismissing a complaint by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, ruled Friday that presidential election results announced at the polling station level are final.
"The lowest voting unit and the first level of the declaration of presidential election results is the polling station," said Justice William Ouko of the Kenyan Court of Appeal. "The declaration form containing those results is the primary document, and other forms subsequent to it are only tallies of the original and final result as recorded at the polling station."
In April, the Kenyan High Court made a similar ruling, but the electoral commission asked the appeals court to overrule the judgment. The electoral commission questioned the integrity of its officers in charge of polling station returns.
Ouko dismissed that argument, calling it "hypocritical" for the commission to doubt its workers.
Disputes over the outcome marred Kenya's last two presidential elections. The 2007 dispute triggered intercommunal fighting that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more from their homes.
'Cure the mischief'
Felix Odhiambo, Kenya country director of the nonprofit Electoral Law and Governance Institute in Africa, said Friday's ruling discourages tampering with election results.
"It will cure the mischief that has been identified in the past, where the electoral commission unilaterally alters and changes the election results at the national tallying center, and most fundamentally it gives credence to the finality and sanctity of the vote," Odhaimbo said.
Ouko called on the electoral commission to hold a credible election in line with the country's Constitution.
"The responsibility of the appellant to deliver a credible and acceptable election in accordance with the Constitution is so great, awesome, and it must approach and execute it with absolute fitness, probity and integrity," he said.
Kenya is scheduled to hold a general election August 8. President Uhuru Kenyatta is running for a second term against challengers who include former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.