3 January 2008

Kenya: Unpacking Election Rigging Allegations


While the international media has mostly focused on the continuing post-election violence in Kenya, what triggered it has gone largely ignored. The election is often simply described as "disputed." What exactly happened and how credible are the rigging allegations?

Kenya's finance minister, Amos Kimunya denied the allegations on Monday, telling the BBC, "I have no evidence that they were rigged." In a press conference Wednesday, government representatives almost got into a fight with members of the press who questioned them on the allegations, The East African Standard reported.

In the past couple of days, however, international leaders, election monitors and even Kenya's election chief have openly questioned the legitimacy of the election. In a joint statement Wednesday,

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and and United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Miliband said "there are independent reports of serious irregularities in the counting process."

In Thursday's Nation, one of Kenya's leading dailies and an allAfrica publishing partner, the head of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Samuel Kivuitu admitted that he thinks there were problems with the tallying.

Putting together the pieces is difficult because of the lack of publicly-available data (especially vote totals by polling station), but the allegations specifically focus on the tallying. The process of voting and the lead-up to the election has largely been described as free and fair, but not the final count.

The European Union Election Observation Mission said in its preliminary statement, "the elections were competitive and generally well administered prior to tabulation," but "they were marred by a lack of transparency in the processing and tallying of the presidential results, which raises concerns about the the accuracy of the final result of this election."

The International Republican Institute (IRI), a United States-based organization that monitored the election, wrote in its preliminary statement that there are "serious questions" with the vote tabulation.

So how were the tallies supposedly tampered? The BBC has posted an example of what an opposition member claims is a tampered tallying sheet.

According to the opposition member, a "0" was added to President Mwai Kibaki's total, inflating the initial total he got at this particular polling station.

In its 15-page report, the EU observer team singled out Central Province, a Kibaki stronghold, for the worst abuses. It writes that observer teams had problems obtaining results from polling stations in numerous constituencies, and in one the results were signed by a member of Kibaki's party. Additionally, some people disappeared with the results after the tallying was complete.

The EU was equally critical of the process at the national level, writing that "the lack of transparency throughout this process undermined the confidence in the process and subsequently the results."

In another newspaper piece published Thursday, Kampala's Monitor reports that in 72 constituencies differences exist between the count reported nationally and initial local results. For example, in Molu, Kibaki's vote count changed from 50,145 to 75,261, and in Kiene something similar happened, with Kibaki's total going from 54,337 to 72,054. In these disputed constituencies, the Monitor reports that the ECK actually obtained some results by phone.

Kivuitu's claims seem to provide supporting evidence for the Monitor's reporting. He said on Wednesday that he had not yet seen results forms from four constituencies. He also revealed that in two constituencies, including Kiene, he saw the changed results on a tally sheet and asked for the original results to be included. But for some reason this was not done.

The Monitor also published this fascinating piece of reporting:

Daily Monitor investigations also indicate that ECK officials overlooked the fact that Kenyan police personnel deployed to guard all the 36,000 polling stations countrywide also kept a record of the voting and compiled an accurate record of the results, so that even if something happened to the ECK structures, the Kenya Police is in position to give the nation correct results of the polls. Sources say that the Kenya Police tally indicates a major difference from what the ECK announced. 

As the evidence of rigging mounts, some in the international press are beginning to pay attention to the angle of the story. The Economist, an opinionated news magazine, called the election a "civilian coup" organized by a group of hardliners.


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