ON 9th August 2022, Kenya held its 7th General Election since the return of constitutional multi-party democracy. The big story was that President Kenyatta made an alliance with the historical opposition party leader Raila Odinga thus abandoning his Vice President, William Ruto, with whom he had a 20-year 10 + 10, turn by turn rule-pact.
“The most impressive element of the election was the electronic transmission of results to a public portal for all to see and verify. With this successful deployment of technology, the story should have ended here – good, transparent and credible election narrowly won by the “hustler”. In the lead up to the announcement of the results of the presidential election, the story suddenly became complicated.”
Discarded Ruto redefined himself as opposition and contested the elections as an “outsider” with the disconcerting self-label of hustler-in-chief. His campaign was directed at those in the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid whom he promised to address their plight. As Africa is indeed a hustler-majority continent, this is a theme that would mark our elections in the coming years. As is usual with Kenyan elections, it was a close battle and the two presidential candidates ran neck-to-neck during the contest.
On Monday 16th August 2022, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Wafula Chebukati, announced the “hustler” – William Ruto – elected as the country’s next President with 50.49% of the vote, narrowly defeating veteran opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who was contesting his fifth election.
Observers were essentially of the same view of the elections. The Commonwealth Observer Group declared the election “peaceful and transparent”. The Honourable Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica who presented the report commended the efforts by political parties, their leaders, presidential candidates, and the people of Kenya, to foster a peaceful environment in the lead-up to the elections.
The findings of the Group’s observation concluded that election day was largely peaceful and orderly, with voters, who turned out in large numbers, expressing their commitment to peaceful elections. They also commended IEBC and polling staff for their respective roles in ensuring that the close of polls and counting of votes followed due process, with a high degree of transparency.
The main local observer group generally considered to be very credible, ELOG set up an elaborate and holistic infrastructure that will combine general observation with Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) and thematic observation. Their report was that the elections were transparent and the figures announced by the Chairman reflected the results of their PVT survey and tabulation were in line with what the Chairman had announced even if their numbers provided for a margin of error.
The most impressive element of the election was the electronic transmission of results to a public portal for all to see and verify. With this successful deployment of technology, the story should have ended here – good, transparent and credible election narrowly won by the “hustler”. In the lead up to the announcement of the results of the presidential election, the story suddenly became complicated.
Four out of the seven commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the body that runs elections in Kenya, held a surprise press conference on the pending election results. The rebel commissioners said they will not take ownership of the results that will be announced by chair Wafula Chebukati. The commissioners included the vice chair Juliana Cherera. Subsequently, they explained that: “The results of the presidential election … belong to Mr Chebukati himself and do not represent a declaration and announcement by the IEBC. The Commission has to process the results before they are declared and announced by the chairperson.”
The four commissioners said Mr Chebukati had, in his declaration, failed to announce the total number of valid votes cast, which they said raises questions over the figures used in the final tally. The results declared and announced did not indicate the total number of registered voters, the total number of votes cast or the number of rejected votes, if any. In this regard, the results announced by Mr Chebukati lack a critical ingredient, namely the total number of valid votes cast to support the percentages scored by the four candidates, said the commissioners.
50pc plus one vote
The Kenyan Constitution requires the president-elect to get 50 per cent plus one vote of the total votes cast to secure a first-round win. Without the declaration of the total votes cast, the commissioners said, it was not possible to tell the figures that were used to decide the winner:
“Take notice that Mr Chebukati’s aggregation was as follows; Raila Odinga—48.85 percent, William Ruto—50.49 percent, Waihiga Mwaure—0.23 percent, Wajackoyah George—0.44 percent. This brings the total to 100.01 per cent,” the commissioners said, which presents “a mathematical absurdity that defies logic.”
“Meanwhile, since 1991, after 26 years of single party rule, Kenya had returned to multi-party democracy. The constant fear has always been that of electoral violence. The 2007 election in particular was characterised by massive post-election violence that brought world leaders to mediate following massacre of over one thousand people. In the 2013 elections, the political environment around the elections was overshadowed by the impending trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.”
They concluded that the 0.01 per cent translates to approximately 142,000 votes, which would make a significant difference in the final result.” At this point, their story developed K-Leg as we say in Nigerian English. Many experts immediately pointed out that the 0.01 per cent translates to just about 1,421 votes, if one takes the 14,213,137 as the total valid votes cast, as captured in the IEBC’s press release of the declared results, broken down to tallies in the 47 counties. The mistake by the Chairman apparently was rounding off the figures for each candidate, which should not have been done. The difference in votes tally between the two is over 200,000.
In his response to his colleagues, Electoral Commission Chairman said that the four commissioners had unsuccessfully pushed for a re-run and demanded he declare that none of the candidates hit the 50 per cent plus one mark to secure a first-round win, and which would have forced a re-run pitting the two leading candidates. This, Mr Chebukati says, would have been against the law and a betrayal of the commissioners’ oath of office as a winner had indeed emerged. Most likely, the matter would go to the Supreme Court next week and two weeks thereafter, we would have the arbitration of the judiciary.
Meanwhile, since 1991, after 26 years of single party rule, Kenya had returned to multi-party democracy. The constant fear has always been that of electoral violence. The 2007 election in particular was characterised by massive post-election violence that brought world leaders to mediate following massacre of over one thousand people. In the 2013 elections, the political environment around the elections was overshadowed by the impending trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.
The key accused persons for the trial were Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto, the Jubilee Alliance presidential candidates. They both faced charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the course of the post-electoral violence following the 2007 polls. After a sustained attempt at prosecution by the ICC, the charges were dropped. The prosecution alleged that witnesses had been compromised or threatened thereby jeopardising the case. President Uhuru had an alliance with Ruto based on a pact – ten years in power for one then it would be the turn of the other to have his ten years. Uhuru Kenyatta broke the pact and that might have been a mistake because his assumption that his core voters would switch support to a life-long foe because he says so was presumptuous as the results show.
Dear readers, Kenyan elections always have great lessons for African democracy. Stand by your deepening democracy column for the next episode of the story.
Ibrahim is a professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development. He is also the Chair of the Editorial Board of Abuja-based online newspaper, PREMIUM TIMES.