After two days of excruciatingly slow vote-counting in Kenya’s general election, on the evening of Wednesday 6 and the morning of Thursday 7 March things started moving again. However, the wait has meant that the politics surrounding the poll has also shifted up a gear as it becomes easier to make an educated guess as to who has won.
On 6 March the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that it was abandoning the electronic delivery of votes to its headquarters at Bomas of Kenya – a centre for ‘Kenyan culture’ in the suburbs of Nairobi. The electronic process had suffered ‘technical difficulties’ that now appear to be more akin to a total failure. These results were only ever intended to be provisional, with the final tally being delivered manually by returning officers who would travel to Bomas with the results in official briefcases. A comparison between electronic and manually delivered results was supposed to guard against any rigging.
When the electronic system stalled with around 40 per cent of the vote counted, it seemed like the process would never end. At the IEBC media centre you could see foreign correspondents becoming increasingly desperate as a first, then a second, choir took the stage to keep us ‘entertained’. Some escaped for a long lunch in the swanky nearby neighbourhood of Karen while others abandoned the centre entirely, heading to Kibera (a nearby slum) to take the temperature of the locals. Most Kenyans seemed tense and perhaps a little tired of the whole process – an emotion with which I became increasingly sympathetic.
As the manual count proceeded fairly smoothly into the morning of Thursday 7 March CORD – the party of Presidential candidate Raila Odinga – called a surprise press conference. Raila himself didn’t turn up; instead, his vice-presidential candidate Kalonzo Musyoka, an articulate and urbane individual, but thought by many Kenyans as being a bit indecisive, made a statement. This made clear that CORD is currently very unhappy with the way the count is progressing and wants vote-tallying to be stopped and restarted using primary documents. He stated that Kenyan electoral law requires both electronic and manual tallying of the results. CORD is stating that it has serious reservations about the credibility of the count and that the responsibility lies with the IEBC.
Such statements will resurrect bad memories among Kenyans of the 2007 polls, when a rejection of the results by Raila Odinga, and a call for mass action, precipitated a post-election disaster in which over 1,000 people were killed. It should be noted, however, that Musyoka was clear in maintaining CORD’s commitment to the rule of law. However, if their demands are not met regarding the manual process then they will ‘consider other options’. The first of these would likely be an attempt to gain a court injunction to restart the count, but Musyoka was evasive on what the full range of options would be.
So why this statement now, when on my last count only 108 constituencies have reported (out of a total of 290)? Official results place Kenyatta ahead by around 600,000 votes, but there is still a long way to go.
The rumour is that CORD has done its own tallies and knows it doesn’t have the votes. Whilst pre-election polls placed both CORD and the Jubilee alliance on around 45 per cent, a small number of quietly confident analysts and Jubilee supporters told me that they were very close to winning in the first round. If this now comes to pass (and only time will tell), then it would seem to explain Musyoka’s statement this morning. Either way, CORD is playing a dangerous game, one that most Kenyans will not relish in the least.