Lessons from the Kenyan elections

Lessons from the Kenyan elections

first_imgDear Editor,The results of the elections held in Kenya in August have been annulled by the Supreme Court of Kenya. It is a signal victory for Opposition Leader Raila Odinga.Odinga had contested four consecutive elections in the past, but claimed he was cheated of victory on every occasion.Following declaration of election results, the opposition had filed an election petition challenging the results, and called for fresh elections to be held.According to the official results announced by the Kenyan Elections Commission, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party won 54.3 % of the votes cast, while Odinga’s National Super Alliance won 44.8 %In a matter of just two weeks, the elections petition was heard, and a ruling cancelling the elections results was made by the Supreme Court of Kenya, comprising six judges.The Supreme Court ruling is a big embarrassment for the foreign observers, including the Carter Center team led by former US Secretary of State John Kerry, the African Union team led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the Commonwealth team led by former Ghanaian President John Mahama, and other foreign observers who had travelled to Kenya to observe the elections process and had claimed it was free and fair.The Supreme Court ruling is an indictment of the Kenyan Elections Commission. The ruling has brought the Commission into disrepute, and calls have been made for its members to be prosecuted and brought before the court for electoral crimes committed against the people of Kenya.Of great significance in the history of Kenyan Jurisprudence is the ruling of the Supreme Court deeming the elections results “null and void due to massive irregularities.”Kenyans have lost confidence in the court as an institution for dispensing justice. Many expected the Supreme Court to ‘go with the flow’ and to maintain the status quo ante, but according to Odinga, “The Supreme Court ruling sets a precedent, is historic, and (is) a triumph for Kenyans.”The court ruled that fresh elections are to be held in six months.Of great importance was the observation made by the Opposition Leader — that the “gathering of the evidence was critical for the presentation of a credible case.Ten days before the elections, the IT expert attached to the Kenyan Elections Commission was murdered under questionable circumstances. The Opposition believed that his death marked the beginning of elections’ rigging by hacking into the electronic voting system.Tallying and transmission of the results were areas where considerable fraud was committed.The elections in Kenya is instructive for Guyanese elections’ watchers. First, there is the need to always bear in mind our own experiences with rigged elections. Second, there is need for zero tolerance with electoral malpractices. Third, we need to realize that election is a process beginning from the selection of the Chairman of GECOM and ensuring the independence of the Commission. The selection of elections officials; the registration of electors; and the preparation, verification and cleanliness of the voters’ list; casting of ballots; transmission of the tally sheets; Counting the votes at the places of poll; and the transmission and reliability of the data on the tally sheets are all very important.Fourth, foreign observers should not consider casting of votes at the places of poll as the single most important criterion for validating elections as free and fair. Fifth, the introduction of voting machines together with the tallying and transmission of votes cast electronically in a country where elections were never held in that way before is fraught with grave challenges, if not dangers. Sixth, the need for the opposition party contesting elections to have smart, strong and knowledgeable polling agents at each polling station. The agents must be capable of recording accurate and reliable data and irregular occurrences as future evidential value at each polling station. Seventh, the independence of, and non-interference in, the work of the judiciary.Eighth, the sloth of the court system here in Guyana. In Kenya it took only two weeks to hear an election petition and dispense justice. Here in Guyana it is more than two years now since an elections petition was filed in court. Justice delayed is justice denied. Both Kenya and Guyana are Commonwealth countries.Guyanese must take note of the Kenyan election experience, and always remember that “Those who forget the past are bound to repeat it.”Sincerely,Clement J. Roheelast_img

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