News Column

Technical Problems Plaguing Kenyan Vote Counting

March 6, 2013

Ballot-counting from this week's Kenyan general and presidential elections was facing delays Wednesday due to technical glitches in an expensive, high-tech computerized system.

Instead of relying upon electronic transmission of data, electoral officials were physically bringing ballots from around the country to be counted at the main tallying centre in Nairobi.

Provisional results, with more than 40 per cent of votes counted, show Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta with about 53 per cent of the vote, while his rival, Premier Raila Odinga, had about 42 percent.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said it hoped official results would come later in the day and apologized for the problems in the electronic system, which cost tens of millions of dollars.

To avoid a run-off, a candidate must garner at least 50 percent of the votes.

There have been indications from officials that hundreds of thousands of spoiled ballots will be counted, which would make it harder for Kenyatta to avoid a second round.

Officials close to Kenyatta, who is facing trial at the International Criminal Court for his alleged involvement in post election violence in 2007, have accused foreign diplomats of attempting to interfere with the vote tallying.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon echoed local election officials in calling for "calm and patience" as the votes were counted and urged politicians to refrain from making statements undermining the electoral commission.

"A peaceful, credible conclusion to the election is within Kenya's reach and would be a significant step for Kenyan democracy and stability," said Ban.

These general elections are the first since the post-election bloodshed of 2007-8, during which more than 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Kenyatta and his vice-presidential running mate, William Ruto, are among four people indicted by the ICC for their alleged roles in orchestrating the ethnically driven violence. They deny the charges.

Ruto late on Tuesday directly accused foreign diplomats of interfering with the election process.

"We know for sure that certain embassies have had positions with respect to this election," said Ruto, who was Kenyatta's opponent five years ago, but joined together with the deputy premier to form the Jubilee Coalition this year.

"We are very concerned that there is a lot of canvassing by people who should not be participants in this process and we expect that their role be limited to being observers."

Ruto said his party believes invalidated votes should not be counted into the percentages for determining the need for a run-off, possibly setting the stage for a conflict with the IEBC. His Jubilee Coalition has promised to take legal action.

"If there was (a) prize for patience and responsibility, Kenyan voters would have earned it on Monday," said Alojz Peterle, the head of the European Union's election monitoring team, referring to the long queues at polling stations.

"The election is, however, not over yet. Of utmost importance now is to maintain a peaceful atmosphere. Kenyans have showed they are capable of great patience, but even more patience is needed now as we wait for the IEBC to complete its task," said Peterle, a former prime minister of Slovenia.

Voters also made their choices for members of parliament and numerous local government posts this week. Some seats have already been decided, with politicians accepting defeat peacefully.

Kenya, with 43 million citizens, is East Africa's economic powerhouse, though many still face chronic poverty. The country is marking 50 years of independence from Britain this year.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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