Commission addresses poll flaws
Publish date: 11 September 2017
Issue Number: 742
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
The chairperson of Kenya's election commission has written to the panel's CE, questioning various failings in the poll. In the confidential memo, Wafula Chebukati, chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), identified 12 irregularities. A report on the News24 site notes that he demanded that the commission's CE, Ezra Chiloba, ‘respond (to) and explain’ each one. The Supreme Court judges do not have to issue their full, detailed ruling for another two weeks but the leaked IEBC memo gives the first indication of the commission's internal concerns around failings, and tracks closely with some of the opposition allegations levelled during the court hearings. In his letter, Chebukati questioned why ‘over 10 336 out of 40 883 polling stations sent text results without the accompanying Forms 34A’, referring to the tally sheets that were supposed to be digitally transmitted at the same time as the text messages in order to verify the results.
Allegations of computer hacking in Kenya's August election have reignited a debate around the use of digital technology in national votes, with experts suggesting ‘paper may be best’. The discussion is no longer theoretical in Africa where an increasing number of countries are turning to electronic voting or including a digital component in the voting process, such as the biometric voter recognition kits and electronic results transmission system deployed in Kenya. For example, the last two elections in Ghana, in 2012 and 2016, had a strong digital component while Namibia held the continent's first completely digital election, or ‘e-vote’ in 2014. A report on the News24 site notes that Zimbabwe is mulling the use of biometric voter recognition in 2018 while Botswana and Nigeria are considering conducting fully digital elections within two years. The judges' full ruling on the Kenyan poll, which is due by 22 September, is expected to reveal whether electronic failures, or fiddling, were detected. Steve Kremer, a researcher at France's National Institute for Computer Science and Applied Mathematics pointed out that one pillar of electoral democracy – alongside secrecy of the ballot and integrity of the result – is transparency of the process, meaning the ability of voters ‘to understand the underlying system’.