NATIONALNEWSPeople Daily

2017 polls eroded democratic gains, observer reports

George Kebaso @Morarak

The Carter Centre, one of the key observers in last year’s General Election has blamed the tension that engulfed the country on political confrontation and police brutality. Regrettably, as a result, the centre observes that the twin 2017 elections – August 8 and October 26 – were major setbacks to the country’s democratic gains.

“Unfortunately, however, Kenya’s political leaders missed a critical opportunity to ensure an inclusive and transparent election,” the centre added, saying this was partly the point when democracy lost meaning in Kenya, almost 20 years after Kenyans tasted it.

The centre in its 46-page final report on the 2017 Kenyan elections did not specifically name politicians in criticising the conduct of elections that “damaged key democratic institutions and its social cohesion.”

Further, the report blames political grandstanding as a key reason for the polarised situation. “Harsh attacks by top political leaders on electoral and judicial authorities seriously undermined the independence of the country’s democratic institutions and the rule of law,” it observes. In the report released on Wednesday, the centre also blames the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the annulment of the August 8 election and the subsequent tensions.

“The IEBC could have avoided some of these issues if it had used the time available to it before announcing the results to collect and post all of the Forms 34A, enabling all sides to compare them to the county-level 34B,” the report says.

According to the report, IEBC was not keen as the electoral process degenerated to unrest and violence throughout the extended electoral period. The centre, in its analysis, says the results transmission process lacked transparency and verifiability.

It, however, absolves the electoral body of some of the claims by the Opposition that the Supreme Court found no evidence to support Nasa’s fraud and hacking related allegations. “Neither did the court find any complacency on the part of staff of the IEBC,” it noted.

The biometric voter identification system, for instance, developed by the IEBC “provided a strong safeguard against multiple voting on election day,” the report affirmed. In its recommendations, the centre called for prompt organisation of “national stocktaking exercises” to develop and implement electoral reforms ahead of the 2022 General Election.

It also recommends that police should be held responsible for the bloody confrontations between them and peaceful demonstrators that led to loss of lives and property. It also wants Parliament to extend the deadline for Supreme Court to resolve presidential poll petitions from the current 14 days to a minimum of 30 days.

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