The role of international and domestic election observer missions is gaining currency the world over. But going by the 2017 General Elections when observers gave the election a clean bill of health only for the presidential election outcome to be annulled by the Supreme Court, there is an important question that critics have asked.
Do election observer missions get all the necessary tools to detect the complex nature of irregularities and illegalities perpetrated by various actors during our polls?
Criticism of the role of election observer missions has been three-pronged. They have been accused of being partisan. They have also been accused of not having accurate or consistent information needed to check any malpractices effectively. Finally, the missions are not able to detect and deter electoral irregularities.
In countries that are able to plan elections properly, observers are seen as a vital way to promote the quality of democracy. It is often held that election observation, when conducted impartially and effectively, fends off electoral fraud and violence, leading to peaceful elections.
Observers also play a crucial role in ensuring elections are transparent, free, and fair and that the outcome is accepted by voters, political parties, and candidates. It, therefore, legitimises the electoral outcome.
In this historic general election, international and domestic monitoring missions should be accurate, impartial and bold in their assignment to help Kenya make progress, and strengthen democratic governance through this exercise.