BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

…as we wait for Kenya to decide or has it?

I went to bed early Sunday morning with Raila ahead in the Kenyan presidential poll tally. By the time I woke up later in the morning, Ruto was back in the lead. Or was it Raila still? I can’t say for sure now. It has been intense. One moment, Raila is up and Ruto is down. And just before you exhale, Ruto is up and Raila is down.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but it could very well have been. I do not envy the pair at all. Understandably, both were in church to pray on Sunday. Heck, our politicians always remember God when they want power. Then they get into power and forget about their promise of sacrifice from the harvest. Well, this pair probably needed divine intervention, as even that late in the tallying process, they could not say for sure if they would win.

On Saturday, Martha Karua, Raila’s running mate, brimmed with confidence about the almost certain win for the blues. She based her justification on copies of the results on the IEBC portal, which is available to everyone, that they had kept for their calculations. But their opponents were similarly boasting the results pointed to victory for yellow, the colour of the Ruto campaign. Neither of them knew for sure.

Had the manual paper-based alternative been allowed in tandem, the process would have taken longer to conclude, and there would have been more invalid votes

In any case, the IEBC has until today, Tuesday, August 16th, perhaps as you read our column, to declare who the winner is. It could very well have been announced just before, which will be just as well, since my judgement about the polls will thus be better tested.

Even so, most will agree that the Kenyans have proved themselves to be an African exemplar yet again. Yes, there were hiccups here and there. But they are not material enough for a blemish. One returning officer was declared missing, for instance.

The media did not get the counting right. The vote tally by the IEBC was slower this time around, and deliberately so, as it was trying to avoid the errors that pushed the courts to order a rerun of the presidential poll the last time. Still, all the results were already uploaded on the IEBC portal within a 24-hour cycle, and accredited stakeholders and the media had unfettered access.

The verification is what constituted a bottleneck, adding to the lead time for declaration of valid results. But this was a useful exercise. In one case, about 10,000 votes were mistakenly assigned to one of the two frontrunners. Such errors will have gone through without a thorough validation process.

Bottomline, Ruto and Raila will agree that the process was transparent enough, even to the point that if they ever thought there were irregularities that could tilt the results one way or another, the robustness of the process is why they are able to determine so.

The story could have been way different. I feared the nightmarish scenario that the allowance for a paper-based process will have birthed. All sorts of shenanigans would have beleaguered the polls, for sure. That the polls will be a cliffhanger of sorts was widely expected.

Many forecasters chose not to predict a winner as they determined it will be too close to call. They were right. My intuition that an election this close tends to favour the establishment candidate, which in this case is Raila, is unchanged.

But a potentially key power lever of the establishment was cut abruptly just before polling day. About a day to the elections, the Court of Apeal overruled the lower court that made allowance for a manual paper-based election process.

So, the IEBC got its way, as did Ruto, the supposed underdog in the race, who was counting on the more transparent electronic process to ensure that his supporters got their say. The electronic voting process (voters still stamp a ballot) ensures not only that there is no double-voting, but that the results are almost immediately available on the IEBC web portal once polls close.

Even the forms that are required to validate the votes are scanned and uploaded to the IEBC public internet portal for all to see.

Had the manual paper-based alternative been allowed in tandem, the process would have taken longer to conclude, and there would have been more invalid votes, as it is not only easier to manipulate but it also erodes the independence of many an illiterate voter, who in this election is believed to be more aligned with Ruto, the populist presidential candidate.

We wait. Or perhaps, we have finished waiting. Congratulations to the winner!

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