Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Poll observers laud Kenya elections

Commonwealth Observer Group Chairman Festus Mogae addresses a news conference at Norfolk hotel.  PHOTO/PHOEBE OKALL

Commonwealth Observer Group Chairman Festus Mogae addresses a news conference at Norfolk hotel. PHOTO/PHOEBE OKALL   NATION MEDIA GROUP

By DAVE OPIYO dopiyo@ke.nationmedia.com

Two foreign observer missions have given the country a thumbs up for conducting a peaceful, transparent and credible election.

The African Union and the Commonwealth observer groups led by former Presidents Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) and Festus Mogae (Botswana) respectively said despite a few hitches, they were satisfied with the manner in which voting and counting took place in the majority of the places visited.

In their preliminary reports released separately, the teams, however, noted a few hitches in the electoral process even as Kenyans eagerly await the final tally of the presidential vote.

The AU was particularly concerned with the high number of rejected votes, many of which may have resulted from inadequate voter education in the run up to the March 4 elections.

Mr Chissano who leads the group, said although they recognised the role played by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in conducting voter education, it was simply "not fully satisfactory".

“Some of the stakeholders that were involved in this process may have not fully participated in the exercise and thus left it to the IEBC,” said Mr Chissano.

Asked whether the rejected ballot papers should be included in the final count which determines the winner of the presidential poll, Mr Chissano said the requirements of the law must be followed at all times.

The Commonwealth said the failure of the electronic voter transmission process should not further delay the release of the official presidential results as this may cause anxiety amongst Kenyans.

The law allows the electoral commission to announce the final tally of the votes within seven days.

Mr Mogae said the chaotic political primaries that were conducted until the deadline for nomination of candidates to minimise party hopping created unnecessary pressure on the electoral commission, creating challenges especially with ballot printing.

“The IEBC faced a challenging task in organising the election , not at least because in a short period of time it was tasked with conducting boundary delimitation, a brand new biometric voter registration and preparing for six polls on a single day for multiple institutions some of which had just been created,” said Mr Mogae.

"In such an environment, the IEBC did also struggle to contend with some truncated electoral deadlines and shortcomings. Problems and delays in the procurement of the BVR’s and reduced period for voter registration both impacted on the electoral process.”

Mr Mogae said should there be any legal disputes regarding the elections; they should be resolved using the prescribed channels – the courts.

And even though he lauded the creation of special seats for women in parliament, the former president regretted that the two thirds gender quota as provided for in the constitution, was yet to be enforced.

He said the IEBC should ensure clarity and complete the electoral process in a transparent and timely manner.

“We also all parties and their supporters to be patient and calm and continue to play their part as they have done so far and ensure that Kenya’s reputation is enhanced as a result of the elections,” he said.

The African Union deployed 29 teams composed of 60 observers to 482 polling stations in 130 constituencies while Commonwealth had 23 people spread across seven provinces.

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