International observers have termed the initial phase of Kenya’s election as transparent and credible, despite the challenges that caused delays in voting and transmission of results.
The independent election monitors from the African Union, Commonwealth, European Union and Carter Foundation said the main cause of challenges facing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was inadequate time for preparations.
They said the fact that IEBC had to delimit boundaries and procure the biometric voter registration kits within a relatively short time, and conduct six polls on a single day presented challenges.
“Overall, the IEBC managed preparations in a transparent and effective manner,” Commonwealth Observer Group chairman Festus Mogae, the former Botswana President, said.
He said that public confidence in the IEBC was high describing it as commendable in view of the loss of trust in its predecessor, the Electoral Commission of Kenya, widely believed to have bungled the 2007 General Election.
Mr Mogae said IEBC struggled with late changes to electoral laws, revised deadlines and other shortcomings.
“The voter education campaign, which is critical given the new system and complexity of the voting, was initiated relatively late in the process,” he said.
The group found that delays in procurement of materials for biometric voter registration and the reduced period of voter listing also undermined the process.
The group said the new electoral legislation passed at the tail-end of the tenth Parliament resulted in a contracting of the electoral calendar.
Mr Mogae said amendments to the IEBC Act and the Elections and the Political Parties Acts were not always helpful to the effective administration and management of the electoral process.
Voter registration was reduced from 90 to 60 days before the General Election while the minimum period a candidate had to have been a member of a party in order to qualify for nomination was reduced from three months to zero, facilitating party hopping up to the last moment.
“While the inclusion rate on the list can probably be further improved, the new register represents a major effort and generally provides for universal suffrage,” he added.
African Union Election Observer Mission head Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique, said that the elections were conducted in a peaceful, transparent and credible manner, giving voters opportunity for free expression.
The observer groups said that with a few exceptions, polling stations generally opened on time and IEBC officials competently helped voters despite the challenges with the biometric verification of voter identity.
“The African Union Observer Mission noted with satisfaction the extra efforts by polling officials to complete the process in one day despite the long queues in most polling stations towards closing time,” Mr Chissano said.
He said tallying of votes at polling stations was conducted openly with poll officials working with party agents to ensure transparency and accountability.
The EU Elections Observation Mission chief, former Prime Minister of Slovenia Alojz Peterle, said the elections were characterised by a huge push for peace, transparency and accountability.
“Kenyans commitment to exercising their rights sets a peaceful example not only to the region but the world,” Mr Peterle said at a separate briefing in Nairobi.
The mission chiefs, however, urged the commission to expedite releasing of the presidential results and urged party supporters to remain calm as presidential vote tallies were relayed.