In Kenya election winner William Ruto is already preparing for a move into the State House. This is the official residence of the President in Nairobi. But a bitter dispute is still raging about the election a week ago, which has so far focused on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEBC), in particular on its chairman, Walufa Chebukati. He had announced Ruto’s victory in a most tumultuous ceremony. Shortly before, four out of seven members of the commission had stormed out of the hall in protest. The police had to intervene to quell the scuffle and commotion afterwards. Foreign observers and diplomats were rushed out.
Ruto, the current Vice President, has hailed Chebukati as a “hero of this election”. his opponent Raila Odinga Meanwhile, he supported the four commissioners. They accuse the chairman of going it alone and a “non-transparent” determination of the result.
Odinga, who ran in a presidential election for the fifth time, has already announced that he will challenge the election before the Supreme Court. Election observers from the Kenyan Elections Observation Group (ELOG) meanwhile described the result as consistent with their own representative surveys. Ruto got 50.5 percent of the votes, Odinga 48.9 percent.
“The Commission is concerned”
The confusion is reminiscent of the highly controversial 2017 elections in Kenya. The Supreme Court ultimately annulled them for irregularities and new elections scheduled. A review board later spoke of a combination of “willful incompetence and internal sabotage.” For its part, the electoral commission had complained about political influence and intimidation. In particular, the brutal murder of Chris Msando, the Commission’s IT manager, had caused horror not only in Kenya.
The statement of the IEBC reads similarly today. “The Commission is concerned that some of its key staff, who have carried out their duties objectively and impartially, are being intimidated and harassed.” He was an “honest, honest and conscientious” employee. The investigation into the cause of death is ongoing. Other employees were arbitrarily arrested. When the election results were announced, Chebukati and three other commission members were also attacked and injured.
The four renegade members, in turn, accuse Chebukati of not discussing the election results with them. They also complained about mathematical errors because the sum of the votes for the four presidential candidates was not 100 percent, but 100.01 percent. The IEBC now referred to rounding errors and presented the exact results with nine decimal places. They add up to 100 percent. However, the question of whether the chairman was allowed to announce the distribution of votes against the resistance of the four is still being hotly debated. Chebukati said the constitutional mandate rests “directly with the chair of the commission.” Some legal experts have subscribed to this view.
The incumbent President is now also coming under increasing criticism Uhuru Kenyatta, who had supported Odinga in this election. Great efforts have been made to ensure transparency in these elections, Mulle Musau, ELOG’s national coordinator, tells this newspaper. But a number of the reforms called for after the 2017 elections did not materialize.
put lawyers in place
The posts of four commissioners, for example, have remained vacant for several years. Only at the end of last year did Kenyatta fill it with the four members who now do not want to support the election results. Even before the election, there were discord within the commission and indications of political interference. “The strings seem to be pulled elsewhere,” says Musau. In his view, insufficient state funding has exacerbated the problems.
Before the chaos in the election center, international observers had praised the IEBC for the orderly and calm election process. But there were also concerns during the election campaign. There were reports of possible security gaps in IT systems and deceased people on voter lists. Parts of a report by the auditing company KPMG were kept secret. Confusion was caused in July by the arrest at Nairobi airport of three Venezuelans who worked for the supplier of election technology systems. Election materials were found in their pockets. The IEBC criticized the arrests as harassment.
A few months before the election, both Ruto and Odinga had expressed doubts as to whether the commission was prepared. Both had hired lawyers to contest the outcome. Odinga’s party alliance had warned against manipulation because counting the votes was taking so long. According to her information, there had also been hacker attacks on the election commission’s computer system.
The EU election observers have “taken note” of the election results announced so far. They called for disputes to be settled peacefully through legal channels. Several African Presidents congratulated Ruto. A challenge to the election must be received in court within seven days. The court then has 14 days to decide on admission. In the event of an annul, the election would have to be repeated within 30 days.