|European Union election observers have criticised the Electoral Commission for failing ‘‘to meet international standards of transparency in key areas of its mandate’’ during the 2007 General Election.
In its final report on the polls released Thursday, the observers also censured the judiciary, political parties and media for their conduct during the controversial elections.
The ECK is accused of failing to manage the poll properly in accordance with international standards, and presiding over a faulty tallying of Presidential election results, making it difficult for it to be determined conclusively who won.
The report recommends that the Electoral Commission of Kenya should be overhauled to build confidence in its independence and professionalism.
The report said: “The Presidential Elections leave a legacy of uncertainty of who was actually elected as President. This has created an unprecedented situation in the country, characterised by deep ethnic rift and civic unrest as well as political stand off.”
But there is some praise for the ECK and the country’s democracy especially during the campaigning and on voting day, which were judged to be impressive.
The judiciary is criticised for the perception that it lacked partiality, political parties are blamed for fuelling ethnicity which contributed to the post-election violence, and the media, especially vernacular radio stations, for siding with politicians from their regions.
The Majimbo debate, which was at its height in the final days of the elections campaign, was said to have fuelled ethnic tension. More than 1,200 people died and 300,000 were displaced in the violence following the disputed presidential results. The chaos ended after President Kibaki and Mr Odinga signed a power-sharing deal mediated by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The EU team, which was led by Chief observer Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, recommended that political parties take responsibility to restore trust and confidence in democracy.
Copies of the report were given to the Party of National Unity (PNU), the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), the Electoral Commission of Kenya and Johann Kriegler, who is chairing a commission that is inquiring into the conduct of the General Election.
The elections were judged as having fallen short of key international and regional standards for democratic elections.
“Most significantly, the electoral process suffered from a lack of transparency in the processing and tallying of results, which undermined the confidence in the accuracy of the final result of the Presidential election.
It’s regrettable, the report says, because though some incidents of violence had been reported before the poll, the elections had been largely well organised and run.
The appointment of new commissioners by the President without consulting opposition parties, undermined the confidence in the electoral authority. This mistrust was fuelled by ECK’s failure to meet international standards of transparency.
The European Union Election Observation Mission report says: “The President’s single-handed manner in which the appointments in 2007 were made undermined public confidence in the electoral authority. The new commissioners were perceived as biased in favour of the ruling party. In addition, most of them lacked experience in election administration.”
Observers and party agents were denied full access to the tabulation of results at national and partly constituency levels.
ECK announced the final results in the absence of certified constituency results, the EU report says. The ECK is blamed for failing to publish tabulation of Presidential results in every constituency to date.
Parties are blamed for interfering in nominations of candidates and the poor and chaotic organisation.
But the country came up for praise for ensuring an open, free and competitive campaign, though the exercise was characterised by ethnicity, voter bribery and misuse of state resources.
KBC failed to offer equal coverage, as demanded of a public broadcaster, and favoured PNU candidates, the EU says.
Assisting voters and multiple voter registers increased risk of repeat voting.
There was failure to post-election results for members of the public to scrutinise the results in some stations.
The report says: “The aggression of results in the constituency tally centres was delayed, inconsistent and lacked transparency in some constituencies….In Central Province, majority of EU observers experienced difficulties in obtaining polling station results and in some polling stations, returning officers refused to provide constituency results.”
Observers could not witness the tallying at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, because of limited access to the venue, the report says.
“Constituency results were announced mostly on the basis of telephone calls and faxes rather than original result forms as required by law,” the EU says.
It adds: “Inconsistencies were identified between the presidential election results announced at the constituency level and those announced at national level.”
The system for resolving election disputes does not provide sufficient guarantees for redress and there remains a lack of confidence in the independence of the Judiciary to act as an impartial appeal body, it says.
The report says: “Contrary to international best practices, ECK made no provision for results to be posted at the constituency level. Furthermore, since results are not published down to the level of polling stations, they cannot be systematically corroborated by party agents or observers.
It adds: “A month after the announcement of the results there were still results from constituencies missing on the ECK website. The observer mission was informed by the ECK election officer, Sulleiman Chege, on January 5, that the result certificates of at least 20 constituencies were still missing, indicating the premature announcement of results.