Why Chebukati is doing things differently
Electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati has devised new ways of working and managing this year’s elections.
He appears determined to avoid the anxiety and pressure he endured in 2017 and which led the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission being dragged to the Supreme Court.
For instance, he has made all the 46,229 Form 34As available. However, one has to download them to read the results. That way, he has deflected the pressure to tally and announce presidential election results.
Yesterday, he said the law gives him one week to complete the task. His modus operandi has left both friend and foe baffled although it has given him the confidence he lacked in 2017.
Candidates who may have entertained hopes of going to the Supreme Court to seek nullification of results will have little wiggle room after he allowed the media and any other interested party, to download and verify the presidential results forms.
Yesterday, Chebukati assured the nation that all the presidential results as announced at polling stations are final and the commission will only verify Form 34A and Form 34B from the 290 constituency tallying centres. “We do not have any Forms 34A at the National Tallying Centre. All the results are in the portal. Those who want can download and tally,” he said.
He appeared to chide the media: “The media is doing its own tally, though they are behind. They should be at 98 per cent. May be they were not prepared for this.”
Just as in 2017, this year, all the 290 Constituency Returning Officers will have to physically deliver their Forms 34As and Forms 34Bs to Bomas — the National Tallying Centre — for verification. Only then will the presidential election results be announced.
The decision to capture the forms as images — rather than numbers — appears to have been informed by accusations that the 2017 numbers had algorithms that inflated the results and caused an increase in the number of spoilt votes.
Although the method used this year has made the process smooth, it has also made the work more tedious for all players except IEBC. Own tallying will keep them busy until IEBC is ready to announce its results.
“We have seven days to announce the winner of the presidential elections,” Chebukati said at a presser yesterday. “This will take time but it is necessary.”
He quoted Article 86 of the Constitution, which provides that the results announced by a presiding officer at the polling station are final. “With respect to the presidential election, those results are captured in Form 34A,” he said.
Last week, during his briefing on the state of IEBC’s preparedness, Chebukati sent a strong signal, saying he was confident that his team would ensure a credible election. He also announced that he had allowed parallel tallying, which is a break from the past. In 2017, IEBC’s lawyer, Paul Muite, said the commission’s servers were in France and could not be opened because those manning it were asleep. He was responding to a demand by one of the petitioners to open the servers so that Forms 34A could be scrutinised.
Wary of the nullification of another election, Chebukati has this time round opted to make the process so transparent that all the results from polling stations are accessible from a public portal. That means anyone can get them at any point. By yesterday, about 97 per cent of the forms had been uploaded.
When the Supreme Court judges ruled to nullify the 2017 presidential election, they noted that the Chebukati-led commission had committed acts of irregularities and illegalities that compromised its ability to deliver a credible election.
It was significant, however, that though the judges faulted the process, they did not fault the outcome in which Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner over Raila Odinga.
That ruling has guided many of the decisions Chebukati and IEBC have made with regard to this year’s election.
Another break with the past was his decision to postpone gubernatorial elections in Mombasa and Kakamega after ballot papers for the two counties were found to have errors.
Elections will now be held on August 23 but Chebukati has made it clear that only those who had been cleared to vie would be on the ballot. The move bars the inclusion of any new possible entrant. Previously, the electoral agency would have allowed the polls to go on with those aggrieved or defeated advised to seek redress from the courts.