The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: No Rallies On Voting Day, Says Issack

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has banned candidates from addressing crowds on Monday. Commission chairman Issack Hassan said those who flout the directive will be deemed to have conducted campaigns contrary to the Elections Act and the Electoral Code of Conduct.

"I urge all Kenyans to maintain peace throughout the voting process. Candidates should avoid addressing crowds on the polling day, especially after casting their votes, as this may be construed as campaigns which come to an end 24 hours to polling. They should restrain their supporters and avoid paying their agents on polling day for there is a thin line between salary and bribery on such a day," Issack said.

He was speaking yesterday at the launch of the National Election Centre at the Bomas of Kenya. The strict regulations extend to voters.

"I urge voters to cast their votes and proceed home to wait for results. We will not tolerate groups that mill around the polling stations discussing politics for such actions have the potential of igniting conflicts among people with opposing views. Political party agents will be inside the polling station to keep vigil and ensure that the process is transparent," Issack said.

The Bomas of Kenya will be out of bounds for candidates, ministers, permanent secretaries and other government officials. The election centre will be open only to accredited observers, media personnel, members of the Political Parties Liaison Committee, accredited party and candidates agents, and IEBC officials.

Security at the centre has been beefed up with up to 400 police officers deployed. There will be another contingent on standby. "We have paid attention to every detail and thought through the process to identify possible hiccups. From what we learnt, we have been able to rework our strategies," Issack said.

The IEBC chairman said the commission has put in place contingency measures for delays in voting and long queues. "Although we have made efforts to increase the streams or service points at polling stations with high numbers, long queues may not be uncommon. But whatever the hitch, all those who registered and show up to vote will vote.

"There may be some delay but never some disenfranchisement. The polling stations will open at 6am and close at 5pm. However those who will be in the queue at closing time will be allowed to vote," said Issack.

He said all ballot papers have been printed and delivered. Meanwhile, the IEBC has accredited 22,600 election observers. Of these, 20,000 are local and 2,600 are international.

Issack said 5,000 media personnel, spread across the 33,400 polling centres, have also been accredited to cover the general election.

Among the local poll observers are 7,000 from the Election Observation Group (Elog) and about 50 from the Law Society of Kenya and the East African Law Society.

East African Law Society president Aggrey Mwamu said their observers will be posted jointly with LSK's. "We will post them to the provinces and from there they will divide themselves into various counties. They will observe the elections until Tuesday and they will be checking for free and fair elections, whether the indigent persons have sufficient support at the polling stations, and whether the centres are friendly to the elderly," he said.

The international observers are from the European Union (65), joint team from the East African Community, Igad and Comesa (78), the African Union (60), the Carter Centre (60), the Commonwealth, South Africa, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and other countries.

"The EU deploys 65 observers to Kenya. A core team of 12 people are in Nairobi since mid-January (while) 18 long-term observers were deployed to the counties on February 3, and 16 Short-Term Observers were deployed today (yesterday) to join them," said Peter Visnovitz, the EU observers communication officer.

"In the next days locally recruited short-term observers (LSTOs) and a delegation from the European Parliament will also join the mission as observers, completing our number to reach 65," Visnovitz added.

Two former presidents Festus Mogae and Rupiah Banda are leading the AU and Carter Centre observer missions, Issack said. Kenyans will be casting six different ballots on Monday -- for the president, governor, senator, MP, woman's representative and county ward representative -- making the exercise one of the most complex elections in the country's history.

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