Credible ballot not possible, says fleeing Kenyan election official
Nairobi — Preparations for Kenya’s presidential election rerun next week are in disarray after a top official of the commission organising the vote resigned and fled the country and its chairman said his efforts to ensure a credible ballot were being thwarted.
Roselyn Akombe quit the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC), citing issues including the intimidation of staff by “political actors” and protesters. She accused unidentified senior personnel of serving partisan interests, according to a statement from New York on Wednesday.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said in a briefing in Nairobi that divisions in the commission were impeding his ability to make decisions.
“As things stand now, they are not able to conduct an election; if they go ahead, it’s illegitimate,” said Ndung’u Wainaina, executive director of the International Centre for Policy and Conflict in Nairobi.
“If they want, the IEBC can invoke constitutional provisions and call off the election. Either call off or proceed, but they should be prepared to live with the consequences.”
Kenya is repeating its August 8 election after the supreme court overturned President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, saying the vote was not conducted in line with the constitution and the IEBC’s systems were “infiltrated and compromised”.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the rerun on October 10, saying the commission failed to agree to reforms, including changes to its staff and systems to ensure a credible vote.
“The commission in its current state can surely not guarantee a credible election on October 26,” Akombe said. “I do not want to be party to such a mockery to electoral integrity.”
Election controversies have become routine in Kenya. The most catastrophic followed a disputed vote in December 2007, which deteriorated into clashes across the country, claiming at least 1,100 lives.
The Nairobi Securities Exchange all-share index declined for a second day, shedding 1.1% to a three-month low by the close on Wednesday.
Chebukati said he had made “several attempts” to institute changes at the commission, but his proposals had been defeated by a majority of commissioners. A senior official at the authority said in September that the seven-member commission was split over issues including the removal of staff suspected of being complicit in the annulled August vote.
“Without critical changes in key secretarial staff, free, fair and credible elections will surely be compromised,” Chebukati said.
A series of election-related lawsuits have been filed before the October 26 vote. Among them, former MP Harun Mwau has petitioned the courts to seek an order compelling the IEBC to cancel the election and conduct fresh nominations of candidates.