Sunday, March 10, 2013

Feeling Frustrated with Change in Press Tone about Kenyan Presidential Election

Polling Booth in Thika. Election Day March 4, 2013. Photo Credit: the author.

The happiness just could not last. For seven days, I have been very happy, thrilled to participate in a peaceful, transparent election in Kenya with a clear outcome. Now, the happiness is fading.

What I saw with my own eyes was an election that was more fair and transparent than many American elections that I have participated in. Were there problems? Yes. Did they mar the integrity of the election as a whole? Not in my view.

Of course, I am only one person. We do need to wait and see what the Carter Center has to say. I ran into several Carter Center observers in the course of my travels. Carter Center Congratulates Voters on Peaceful Elections.

I feel a little bit as though the international media was looking for problems, and when they could find violence, they had to focus on allegations of rigging. My friend Mwanicks and I agree on this. Press Statement March 9, 2013 for Immediate Release to the International Media

Al Jazeera is really focusing on the Odinga perspective. Sigh. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I am not a big fan of either Odinga or Kenyatta. I really liked Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth, and would have been very happy with Mudavadi. Of course, they all did not make it. So, I am not starting from a position of having believed that Kenyatta "should" have won. But, as an observer what I saw is that from the very beginning, Kenyatta had a sizeable lead, 10 percentage points at its largest. So, the idea that he did not "win" even when all irregularities are taken into account, is somewhat surprising.

I do not think it is inflammatory or unfair to characterize Odinga as "dramatic." He likes a good narrative, and frankly, from my observations, he likes trouble. I am very glad that he has taken his case to the Kenyan Supreme Court. Kenya's Odinga: From the Polls to the Court It sounds like the case will be presented on Tuesday or Wednesday, which is fast. Again, I am annoyed that the international press is making it sound like that is slow. I am an attorney, and people need time to prepare their cases.

I participated in a symposium on voting, vote counting, at Harvard in 2004. We argued that at the end of the day, manual results are what matter. I cannot figure out how to link it, but here is the cite, and you can pull it up easily from Google. L. Jean Camp, Warigia Bowman & Allan Friedman Voting, Vote Capture & Vote Counting Symposium, Proceedings of the 6th Annual National Conference on Digital Government Research, 15-18 May 2005 (Atlanta, GA). pp. 198 .

Indeed, Al Jazeera notes

After electronic vote tallying meant to provide provisional results within 48 hours collapsed the day after polling day, the system was abandoned, and officials reverted to a manual count - which had always been the planned method to establish the definitive result.

Odinga alleges there was massive tampering with the voter register.  I find that a bit hard to believe, as each voter register was locked into the ballot box at the end of the tally, so I will be interested to see what evidence CORD provides to prove this. 

If the Supreme Court agrees with CORD's evidence, there may be a runoff, which will expensive and destabilizing, and may, in my view, heighten the probability of violence. 

What I feel good about is that my perspective as an official elections observer matches nicely with that of both ELOG and the European Union. 

But such cases [of electoral irregularities] remain isolated examples, said election observers. European Union observers praised Kenya for "demonstrating a strong commitment to democratic elections" in an "ambitious undertaking".

Kenya's own Elections Observation Group (ELOG) said the results announced fell within the expected range for each candidate. "ELOG is confident the process was generally credible," the group's chairman, Kennedy Masime, told reporters.

I just hope that the international media and international multilateral organizations are willing to let Kenya have its success. Let the country, (and the IEBC) have a day in the sun. Let us all get back to work. 


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