Overhaul needed at IEBC after costly poll mistakes

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 07:00 | By
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati with vice-chair Juliana Cherera at the Bomas of Kenya during a joint prayer meeting, yesterday. PHOTO/John Ochieng

More than 12 million Kenyans yesterday disrupted their busy schedules, sacrificed precious resources and time and braced a chilly morning to sign a social contract with individuals who volunteered to offer them leadership at various political levels for the next five years. A noble civic duty!

In fact, as you read this article, some of the election results are out and celebrations for “winners” are already rending the airwaves as “losers” wallow in disappointment—hopefully, peacefully. Ideally, there should be no winners or losers in the contest because the ultimate winner or loser will be the voter—and this will be determined at the end of the contract term—depending on the leadership they get from the elected individuals.

Be that as it may, yesterday’s election was unique in so many ways. Firstly, a whopping 22 million citizens had registered as voters and a majority of them were expected to turn out and vote. That’s not a small crowd! Secondly, even though the election had only four candidates seeking the presidency, more than 16,000 were competing for less than 1,900 slots, translating to perhaps the highest number of “losers”. And thirdly, it was an election with an unprecedented number of first-time youthful voters, apathy among them notwithstanding.

Fourthly, perhaps due to the social, political and economic position of Kenya in its neighbourhood and around the globe, the election attracted unusual interest among the international community.

Consequently, high-profile observers, including former heads of state and government are in the country. We are hosting former Presidents Mulatu Teshome (Ethiopia), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Goodluck Jonathan (Nigeria), Evariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi), Ernest Bai Koroma (Sierra Leone) and Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique).

Also, former Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding, a member of the African Union Election Observer Mission Ellen Dingani and head of the European Union Election Observer Mission Ivan Stefanec are observing an election billed as the most expensive in East Africa.

It’s a high-stakes election and the voter, stakeholders and the world expect nothing but above board process. Transparency, accountability and verifiability must punctuate every part of it. Individuals, lobbies and agencies mandated to oversee the election in whatever capacity must remain (and be seen to remain) aboveboard to deliver credible polls.

That’s why blunders or misconduct on the part of the players, the referee (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) or even ‘spectators’ cannot be condoned, whatsoever. No one will be pardoned for even attempting to bungle the election or causing costly lapses.

It is, therefore, most appalling to note that some voters did not get a chance to vote yesterday due to avoidable circumstances. For instance, voters in Mombasa and Kakamega counties did not elect their governors and those in Pokot South and Kacheliba did not pick representatives to the National Assembly, all courtesy of IEBC’s blunders.

The agency cited confusing details in printing the ballot papers. With all fairness, it beats logic for IEBC, after months of preparations, and at a high cost to the taxpayer, to imply the details on the ballots had not been verified before printing, packaging and shipment. No excusable reason would justify the eventuality that denied about a million voters their right to civic duty.

Therefore, the personnel responsible for the costly mistake must pay for it, even being surcharged. The candidates in the aborted races will incur double expense in their bid to get elected and millions of shillings will be involved. The taxpayer will pay dearly for reprinting the ballots and footing the bill for the resultant by-elections. What will be the responsibility of IEBC in this? Somebody must share the pain!

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