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All systems go as first batch of ballots arrive

Mike Ratemo and Sarah Ndung’u @peopledailyke

The first batch of ballot papers for the August 8 General Election arrived in the country last night as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) assured the country that everything had fallen in place to conduct the poll as scheduled.

The first consignment of 20 million ballot papers for Governor, Women’s Rep and Senate elections landed from Dubai aboard a cargo airliner. IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said other ballot papers for elections: Members of the National Assembly and Members of the County Assembly, are scheduled to arrive in the next few days.

The remaining batch is that of the presidential election, which is subject to a Court of Appeal ruling expected tomorrow to determine if printing, that had been halted by the High Court last week, should proceed. The High Court had found that IEBC had not fulfilled the requirement for public participation during tendering and stopped the process.

But it did not rule out printing by the Dubai-based Al Ghurair firm, which has printed ballot papers for all the other tiers of the election. The court was also faulted by lawyers for IEBC who questioned why printing for the other categories, which had been tendered at the same time, was in order, while halting the presidential section, that had been scheduled to commence printing yesterday.

Chebukati said in a statement that the arrival of the ballots is a clear indication that preparations for the polls are on course. IEBC also said it is set to start running mock tests on equipment and electronic systems tomorrow to ensure everything is working seamlessly ahead of the polls.

Besides, IEBC will tomorrow release an online voter register for inspection while measures to ensure electronic voter identification and result transmission runs smoothly on polling day are underway.

IEBC chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba said the commission has acquired 45,000 integrated kits and that details of 19.6 million voters in the IEBC register will be made public from tomorrow. “Given the interest that people have on the register of voters, we’re going to publish it but with truncated information because there are people who do not wish their images, for instance, to be published,” he noted.

While expressing optimism and allaying any fears from ciriticism that the electoral agency was unprepared to hold credible polls, Chiloba said, “It’s all systems go” for the commission, amidst growing discontent that time is running out.”

“To dispel any doubt of credibility, we have perused and flushed out names of the dead, duplicate and irregular identity cards. I hope the register will shed light and correct the anomalies pointed out by the KPMG report which was released half-baked at the time,” he said.

Chiloba intimated that the commission is working closely with three mobile phone service providers (Safaricom, Airtel and Orange Telecom) to expand network and acquire satellite services in remote areas not covered.

The agency said it has already struck a deal with Airtel, Safaricom and Orange to roll out 3G and 4G networks to enable smooth transmission of results. “Since the law does not provide for an alternative result transmission method other than electronic, we are working to put up in place a system that is foolproof,” Chiloba said.

“During transmission, in the unlikely event there is network outage, transmission will be delayed to allow electoral officials access a place where there is network to relay the results to either constituency, county or national tallying centres,” he added.

Other than the results, the election officials will also scan result declaration forms and submit them electronically. Chiloba was addressing civil activists gathered under Kenyans for a Peace Initiative, in conjunction with AfriCOG, who launched an Assessment of Kenya’s Preparedness for the August 8 General Elections.

His remarks came in the wake of several ongoing litigation filed by lawyers of Nasa to challenge various aspects of the election. On Monday, Lawyer Paul Mwangi filed a case wanting the election halted in case the electronic systems failed.

Chiloba reaffirmed that other systems including logistics in voting, tallying, results announcement and electoral dispute resolution are in place. “The court rulings have resulted in far-reaching consequences but the bulk of the work has been accomplished.

We have released a voter register bearing 19.6 voters, gazetted over 44,000 polling stations, cleared over 14,000 candidates and prepared over 290 tallying centres, hence we are ready,” said the chief executive. Chiloba urged courts to observe constitutional timelines before making rulings that might disrupt their task.

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