‘What Qualified the 2022 General Elections as a Process and not an Event. The road to a mature democracy.’
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was only able to provide Kenyans with a free, fair and transparent elections after sealing a number of systemic and historical potholes that had emerged in previous elections. 2022 general elections provided an avenue where the electorate- being the key stakeholders- would clearly understand how their vote travels from the time they are cast to the time they are announced at the National Tallying Centre.
On the 9th of August 2022, Kenyans turned up to exercise their civic duty by electing their preferred leaders through a secret ballot. With the hotly contested political race attracting over 16, 098 candidates vying for different seats across the country, this was indeed an electioneering period to look out for. All of whom were cleared to vie for the 290 parliamentary slots, 47 Senate, 47 governor and 1450 Member of the County Assembly positions- with some seats attracting over 7 aspirants.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission rolled out the first phase of a 30-day mass voter registration exercise beginning 4 October 2021. This exercise was extended following a low turnout experienced countrywide paving the way for a three-week second phase of the mass voter listing. Thereafter, the commission opened an online verification avenue to allow voters to verify their details with the commission.
The level of preparedness by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was quite fair considering most of the issues presented by the two political giants- Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition and Kenya Kwanza were addressed. The electoral body, though marred with a lot of controversies in the final days of preparations including the unprecedented arrival of the Venezuelan nationals who were found in possession of sensitive election materials, the IEBC cleared its name and assured Kenyans on national television that everything was under control and that the matter in question was resolved.
The late release of an audit report by the KPMG further unearthed crucial breaking points in the electoral system that would bring about possible access to the IEBC systems by hackers, loss of voter data due to the switch of technologies from the previous Idemia platform to Smartmatic. This made it humanly impossible for stakeholders to thoroughly scrutinize the measures put in place by the commission to safeguard the integrity of the elections. Some of the issues exposed by the audit were the discrepancies in the total figure of registered voters in certain areas as a result of the process of transferring voters- an allegation the commission admitted to being an irregular transfer of voters from the voters’ preferred polling stations.
All in all the commission assured Kenyans that action was taken against the officials involved in such anomalies. From this report, IEBC saw a number of petitions presented at the apex court against it after the final declaration of the presidentialresults. Petitioners challenged the credibility of the elections considering the significant number of dead voters and individuals who had registered more than once in the electoral system. However, no tangible evidence was presented before the supreme court to allude that these irregularities in any way affected the outcome of the elections.
Then there arose the issue of phasing out the manual register by the IEBC. This move was emphatically opposed by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Presidential hopeful Honourable Raila Odinga and other human rights groups- terming it as unconstitutional. Politicians from Kenya Kwanza however, had backed the IEBC on their decision to strictly adopt the electronic register- the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIMS) kits-to identify the over 20 million registered voters expected to cast their votes on the 9th of August. The fear of incorporating the manual register was based on the possibility of electoral officials abusing their powers to use the manual register and would suffice rigging attempts.
The plea in the High Court by the Human Rights Group was heard and the court ordered the use of a manual register as a backup to the primary mode of voter verification in case a voter’s details fails to be picked by the kits. This move may have dragged the electoral body behind in its level of preparedness for the polls but would in turn enhance accountability, prevent possible ballot stuffing and ensure no voter will be locked out by the failure of digital systems. A plus for the commission.
Over 18,000 election observers and hundreds of international journalists came to monitor the long-awaited polls. The Electoral body itself accredited over 10, 000 observers as part of the crucial observer mission. From this number, the IEBC chairman ascribed 1,300 international observers to help assess the pre-electoral environment, the polling process, tallying, tabulation and announcing of the final results.
Having sorted out issues in advance and addressing the ones raised as final touches, the IEBC was set for the d-day. The voting exercise was set to begin at 6:00 am and close at 5 pm in all the polling stations across the country. The chairperson Mr Chebukati suspended the gubernatorial election in Mombasa and Kakamega counties, as well as the parliamentary polls for Rongai, Kacheliba and Pokot South constituencies. This was a result of errors found in the ballot papers, including misleading pictures for candidates and other relevant details. The chairman also suspended polls in 5 areas where the aspirants or candidates were confirmed dead, and in areas experiencing insecurities.
The vote counting exercise commenced led by the presiding officers for every polling station. Filling of the form 34A (the first form used to capture results of the presidential election) scan the form and transmit it to the presidential tallying centre. The original form was physically availed to the constituency returning officer whilst copies of the form were issued to the agents and observers. Form 34As were also made available in the IEBC public portal for Kenyans and the media to interact with as the process of verification at bomas commenced.
What therefore happened at the constituency talling centre, is the availing of the second form- form 34B; a collection of all form 34As from all polling stations within a constituency. The returning officer was to proceed to physically avail form 34B to the national tallying centre at Bomas of Kenya. Forms 35A contained the results of MPs, 36A for MCAs, 37A for governors, 38As for Senators, and 39As for Women Representatives.
At the Bomas of Kenya, Mr Chebukati was not to announce or display the results of presidential election until the results are confirmed that they emanate from valid polling stations and that the results were sent using a registered Sim card. The chairman used the valid form 34Bs to tabulate all results from the entire country and come up with form 34C.
On August 15, Mr. William Ruto, Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, was declared the winner of the 2022 presidential election by the commission’s Chaiman Mr Wafula Chebukati. This came amid some scuffle between Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Chief Agent and other politicians affiliated with the coalition, and security personnel at the podium of the auditorium at Bomas. 4 of the seven commissioners of the IEBC held a press release at Serena hotel Nairobi disputing the final results of the presidential race, almost at the same time Mr Chebukati was set to release the final count at the Bomas of Kenya.
Considering all the preparations and initiatives the IEBC put in place before, during and after the voting process, the commission made several strides to improve the transparency and openness of the entire voting and tallying process. As has been indicated, the commission addressed concerns raised by key stakeholders in its final preparations. The voting process in itself was conducted in a peaceful and more organized manner. Few cases of voter intimidation, bribery, and violence at the polling stations were witnessed across the country. The process of the general elections was therefore carried out in a free, fair and transparent manner.