Democracy International releases Final Report on Observation of Egyptian Referendum; EU to observe presidential vote

Nasser Sadat Sisi

Nasser Sadat Sisi

Democracy International (DI) organized a comprehensive international observation mission for the constitutional referendum in Egypt on January 14 and 15, 2014. Although the actual administration of the process on the referendum days appeared to allow those citizens who participated to express their will, DI concluded that the restrictive political climate in Egypt impaired the referendum process. The referendum took place against a backdrop of arrests and detention of dissenting voices. There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government’s “roadmap” or the proposed constitution to dissent. This constrained campaign environment made a robust debate on the substance and merits of the constitution impossible.

Download the full report here.

EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton announced today that the EU would be observing the presidential election scheduled for May 26-27. See the Project on Middle East Democracy Egypt Daily Digest. This may make it more difficult for any decision not to mount a full American observation under USAID, but it strikes me as premature to commit to observing without seeing some progress on the types of concerns that are identified in the Democracy International report on the campaign environment back in January.  The ability to “witness”  on the ground and report accurately on the environment has value but in a presidential election under the circumstances there is risk of being seen as inadvertently giving legitimacy if there is not a bona fide effort by the existing authorities to allow a real competition.

 

“The long, long vote count” –new reporting from Kenya in Africa Confidential

Election Observers

The new “free article” from this month’s Africa Confidential says better what I have been getting at about the extraordinary delay in releasing the results from the Kenyan election, along with new independent reporting on the facts:

. . . In the longer term, such doubts could prompt a re-evaluation of foreign election monitoring missions in Africa. Some on the European Union mission, for example, had serious doubts about the integrity of the process, but it quickly endorsed Kenyatta’s election. By that stage, the EU had contributed more than 50 million euros (US$66 mn.) to the cost of the elections, reckoned to total over $400 mn. One diplomat in Nairobi joked that it was a case of ‘responsibility without power’, meaning that the EU would be blamed for a messy result due to its financial involvement but had no power to change anything.

The IEBC found that a million more votes were cast in the presidential election than in any other, Africa Confidential has learned, although all were held on the same day. Opposition and civil society activists have raised questions about such discrepancies for several months.

An unnamed electoral commissioner quoted in the Nairobi daily The Star appears to confirm their suspicions: ‘We are having sleepless nights reconciling the presidential results and those of the other positions. Over a million votes must be reconciled with the others and if the requirement is not changed, then it will cast the IEBC in a negative light.’

Kenyatta’s supporters reject the concerns, arguing that it is natural that voters were more worried about selecting the national president than candidates for other positions. Few neutrals see this as credible. In the past, dramatically higher turnouts in presidential elections than in others on the same day have been taken as a sign of ballot-box stuffing.

It seems far-fetched that over a million Kenyans would queue for several hours to vote and then ignore all of the ballots apart from the presidential one, especially since there was great excitement about the contests for new, powerful positions such as senator and governor. None of the many election observers we asked said they had seen significant numbers of voters putting a ballot paper in the presidential box but not the others.

. . . .

Please read the whole piece; this is important for the future of Kenya and for future elections everywhere.

 

[Updated June 3] “Kenya’s Elections: Observing the observers”

The new June issue of Africa in Fact published by Good Governance Africa based in South Africa has an article, “Kenya’s Elections: Observing the observers” by Mienke Mari Steytler.  I hope you will take time to read it.

The article included some observations on the work of the Election Observation Missions from interviews in Nairobi with yours truly as an independent consultant and responses and comments from others.  Here is one example:

The EU and the Commonwealth missions are also known for their independence and diplomacy, but others—particularly groups representing intergovernmental bodies—are less critical and independent, according to Mr Flottman. The AU mission had 69 observers and visited 400 polling stations throughout the country. The IGAD/ EAC/COMESA coalition deployed 55 observers to this year’s election.

Kenya is a member of the AU, IGAD, the EAC and COMESA, and they share geopolitical interests. Mr Flottman emphasised that observer missions representing the regional groupings are unlikely “to challenge any position of government”. For instance, the IGAD coalition mission declared the party nominations stage a success, Mr Flottman said. “They said the primaries were good. This is a nonsense statement. No one said that, come on.”

“Observer missions from the AU, SADC [Southern African Development Community], EAC, ECOWAS [Economic Community Of West African States]…because they are intergovernmental bodies, there is the ‘you rub my back, I’ll rub yours’ approach to certifying elections,” EISA’s Mr Owuor said, supporting Mr Flottman’s view. “In other words they were not very critical in an effort not to offend the current government.”

 

Update: on the issue of the use of the term “free and fair”, see The Star, “March 4 polls free, fair – EU”:

EUROPEAN Union election observers have said that the March 4 general elections in Kenya were “overally successful, free and fair” despite reported flaws.

They have however said the processing of the final results by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission “lacked the necessary transparency as party agents and election observers were not given adequate access to the tallying centres”.

Speaking yesterday in Nairobi while releasing the final report, EU elections observation mission chief observer Alojz Peterle said there are several lessons from the difficulties that arose during the process.

 

Here is the link to the entire issue for pdf download:  Africa in Fact:  June 2013–Elections: Make Them Count.

So who is “Good Governance Africa”?  Here is an interview by Africa in Fact editor Constanza Montana of John Endres, CEO of this “new kid on the block” of organizations working to improve governance in Africa.

Update:  See also this recent piece from Think Africa Press by Dr. Judith Kelley at Duke: “Watching the Watchmen: The Role of Election Observers in Africa”:

. . . There are certainly sometimes questions about the conduct of outside observers.

Elections in Kenya unfortunately often provide a case in point and the latest is no exception. The EU monitors have been dragging their feet, with their final report now overdue. EU observer mission spokesman, Peter Visnovitz, reportedly promised the report would be made public by 4 May, but we are still waiting. Furthermore, in its initial press release (before the counting was complete), the EU was positive despite noting that the biometric voting process disenfranchised more than 3 million voters.

Why is the EU taking so long for its final assessment? The Kenyan Star claims that an internal report revealed strong reservations about the processing of the results. Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group (ICG) noted numerous problems and criticised the swiftness with which international observer groups pronounced all well in Kenya’s vote.

Earlier commotion around international observers in Kenya includes their muted response to the problems in the 1992 election; the mission was eager to send positive signals to calm fears of upheavals and resume aid. Their conduct in Kenya’s 2007 election also drew criticism from the UN Independent Review Commission; the body reported that monitors had at times based their claims on misunderstandings.

Time for an African solution?

International observers are clearly not perfect. But the final part of Obasanjo’s argument – that cure for the problem is for African monitoring groups to take over from international missions – rests on equally shaky grounds.

It is true that African groups have become more active. The AU, SADC, ECOWAS, and the electoral Institute of South Africa (EISA), among others, all now feature election observer missions. The AU started as far back as 1989, and the other groups have joined in the last 10 years or so.

That, however, is where the argument stalls. By and large, these groups are not ready to take over as the sole option for election observation on the continent. They have limited resources and experience, their sponsors or member-states are often not particularly democratic themselves, and most importantly, because these organisations are even more embroiled in politics on the continent, they are often more biased than non-African observers.

It’s mid-May, do you know where your election results are?

The Kenyan election was held on March 4.  It is now May 16.  Here is the link to the website of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.  The IEBC announced its final presidential tally on March 9 and formalized its announcement of the identified winner on March 10.

Can you find on the IEBC website the election results for President, Governor and National Assembly?

Why not?

The United States spent many millions of dollars on these elections, including for observation efforts through the Carter Center and ELOG through NDI.  Likewise the European Union funded the EU Election Observation Mission.  The United States and other donors provided many millions for the activities of the IEBC itself through IFES.  And of course Kenya spent many of its own millions.

Yet, we have so much less information available from the IEBC now than we did from the disgraced and disbanded ECK in 2008.

So what is the IEBC waiting for?  And where are the observers?

Is there some reason that the IEBC fears publishing the results?  Could it be because the results show a huge and implausible “overvote” in the presidential race as compared to the number of votes cast in the other five elections at each polling station (and thus, ward, constituency and county)?  Did ELOG, the Carter Center or the EU EOM see large numbers of Kenyans cast ballots for president and spoil or discard their ballots in the other five races?

Six Races

Ballot Boxes in a line

Kenya Election: Overall Observation on Observations [Updated]

This is a quote from an e-mail I sent to an expert back in the U.S. on my way home from Kenya, where I am now. As far as a candid summary of what I think happened in the Kenya elections:

Overall situation with observers was that they were extremely reticent to say anything of substance because of the fear of violence and the fact that IEBC process was ongoing. Further, because of Jubilee attacks on the British High Commission and the West more generally (in my opinion at least) there was an extra level of reticence to say anything that would confront the Government of Kenya election process. We ended up with little impact, if not window dressing, as far as I can see. Someday they will write final reports that might, I hope, involve a deeper look into the original vote count and subsequent events, as well as the prior problems that led to a small voter registration pool, etc.

See Robyn Dixon’s piece in the Los Angeles Times , “Kenya election over, dispute over outcome heads to Supreme Court”::

The narrow margin and repeated failures of the election commission raise the possibility that the Supreme Court could call for an audit of the election result, analysts said.

Kenyatta got 50.07% of the vote, crossing the line with a margin of some 8,000 votes out of more than 12 million cast.

Despite the failures, Kenya’s news media were muted in their reportage of the commission problems. Even international observers have tip-toed around the subject.
However, respected Kenyan anti-corruption crusader John Githongo called the election a failure Sunday. Githongo, an election monitor, said for months a group of community organizations had tried in vain to warn the election commission of problems in its systems and approach.

“In my personal opinion, it’s a failed election,” Githongo said in an interview with The Times. “I think the IEBC performance was catastrophic. I was part of a group of organizations that repeatedly warned them that these problems were there and on the way.”

Commission Chairman Issack Hassan denied the problems and failed to turn up for meetings with the organizations, according to Githongo.

Githongo said Kenyans were so keen to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the disputed 2007 poll that many, especially in the Kenyan media, kept silent about the obvious problems in the election commission.

. . . .

Githongo’s criticisms come after reports that Safaricom, the mobile phone provider involved in the electronic system that was supposed to transmit results to the central tallying point, also warned the commission of looming failures in the weeks before the election, and was also ignored.

Patrick Smith, editor of the journal Africa Confidential, said Western officials privately condemned the commission’s appalling performance but said nothing publicly “for fear of being seen as interfering in the election”.

. . . .

New Development in Reading the Pre-Election Kibaki Tea Leaves: GOK repays DfID for “education scandal”

I don’t want to make everything that happens in Kenyan government and politics in early 2013 “about” the Kibaki succession, because, of course, there are the “down ticket” races that matter, too.  Nonetheless, I was fascinated to see the news in the Standard this afternoon that the Kenyan government had repaid the British official aid agency DFID for losses on the “education scandal” that was current news at the time I started this blog just more than three years ago: “Kenya repays stolen fee education cash”.

The “education scandal” and the “maize scandal” were the two big breaking new corruption eruptions under the Government of National Unity that served to remind everyone that simply adding part of ODM to the second Kibaki Adminstration in April 2008 did not in itself solve anything regarding corruption.  The “maize scandal” was a new and insidious plot for the corpulent corrupt to “eat” off of hunger in the food crisis in 2009; the “education scandal” was the revelation of an older and ongoing insidious plot for the elite to steal from school children, dating to the inception of “free primary education” early in the first Kibaki Adminstration.

Why repay the money now?  One suggestion might be that this is an indication that Kibaki does have concern about his post-presidential reputation, his “legacy”.  Perhaps there is something to this.

Of course, Kibaki is a master of not communicating his intentions, conducting affairs behind closed doors and letting Western (and Kenyan) observers who feel compelled to do so offer speculative analysis and opinion to substitute for actual knowledge about what he is up to.  So who knows?

Amazingly, to me anyway, I have read otherwise trenchant reports and analysis of various aspects of the Kenyan situation that include unembellished lines to the effect that Kibaki will not be a major factor in the upcoming election as he is concluding his second and final term.  To me, it is quite obvious that H.E. Mwai Kibaki will remain the most important individual in the 2013 Kenyan presidential election until he passes the mace to his successor.  With the new constitution, partially implemented, he has less direct and formal power in the 2013 election than he had in the 2007 election.  He remains, nonetheless, far more powerful than any other single individual, even Uhuru Kenyatta or Raila Odinga certainly, and more by far than any one member of his inner circle.  How he will use that power, and how much we will even ever know about how he uses that power, are in question.

Would it be hard for Kibaki to hand off the presidency to Raila Odinga this time?  The polls show Odinga leading but Uhuru in range with just a few weeks to go, so in some ways the race is similar to 2007.  Not to suggest that Kibaki would prefer Uhuru in the way that he preferred himself in 2007, just taking note of the parallels.  Some people have suggested that he might prefer Saitoti or later Mudavadi to either Raila or Uhuru, but did they really know something or were they going on guesses, rumours or even misinformation? Certainly the dynamic of having a possible runoff and the need to win in the counties makes things different and more complicated this time.  It will be interesting to watch.

In the meantime, congratulations to DfID and I will hope that President Kibaki does in fact want to leave office with the best possible reputation on governance and corruption issues in these closing weeks.  UPDATE: (I do think that it must be noted that there is no indication here of an intent to actually recover “stolen” funds, rather that the Kenyan taxpayers are taking up the burden from the British taxpayers.)

Here is news from Saturday, Jan. 12 that President Kibaki has refused to assent to the hugely controversial Retirement Benefits bill passed by the 10th Parliament on their way out of office, awarding themselves a big gratuity of 9.6M KSh on leaving office, along with post-parliamentary benefits such as state burial and security, diplomatic passports and airport VIP lounge access.

Exit Polls and Orange Revolutions; Ukraine and Kenya

From Ben Barber, senior writer at USAID during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, as quoted from a McClatchy piece on Egypt in a previous post:

The Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004 might never have taken place if not for U.S. aid. First, the former communists in control of the Kiev government declared their candidate won an election. Then, a U.S.-funded think tank tallied up exit polls that showed the government had lied and it really lost the election.

Next, a Ukranian TV newsman trained by a U.S. aid program broadcast the exit polls and set up its cameras on the main square for an all night vigil. Up to one million people came to join the vigil. Then the Supreme Court — which had been brought to visit U.S. courts in action — ruled the election was invalid and the government had to step down.

Furthermore, U.S. legal, legislative, journalism and other trainers taught judges, prosecutors, legislators and journalists how to do their jobs in a democratic system.

From U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger’s January 2, 2008 cable to Washington after witnessing fraud at the ECK  in the tally of presidential votes along with the head of the EU Election Observation Mission: “We have been reliably told that Odinga is basing his strategy on a mass action approach similar to that carried out in the Ukraine.”

In Kenya, however, unlike in Ukraine, the U.S.-funded exit poll was suppressed rather than broadcast.  The New York Times reported that USAID’s agreement with the International Republican Institute to fund the poll stipulated that IRI should consult with USAID and the Embassy before releasing the poll, taking into account technical quality and “other diplomatic considerations”.  (The USAID agreement was subquently, eventually, released to Clark Gibson of the UCSD, the primary author of the poll and consultant to IRI, under a FOIA request.)

Here is an account of the opposition approach in Ukraine from Wikipedia on the Orange Revolution:

Yanukovych was officially certified as the victor by the Central Election Commission, which itself was allegedly involved in falsification of electoral results by withholding the information it was receiving from local districts and running a parallel illegal computer server to manipulate the results. The next morning after the certification took place, Yushchenko spoke to supporters in Kiev, urging them to begin a series of mass protests, general strikes and sit-ins with the intent of crippling the government and forcing it to concede defeat.

In view of the threat of illegitimate government acceding to power, Yushchenko’s camp announced the creation of the Committee of National Salvation which declared a nationwide political strike.

Ranneberger noted that the situations in Ukraine and Kenya differed, but did not elaborate.    In Ukraine there was ultimately a re-vote and in Kenya the election results stood. How was Kenya in 2007 different from Ukraine in 2004?  Comments?

Part Ten–FOIA Documents from Kenya’s 2007 Elections–Ranneberger at the ECK: “[M]uch can happen between the casting of votes and final tabulation of ballots and it did”

Westlands Primary-Line to Vote X

Another document released to me from my FOIA request to the State Department for documentation of the State Department observation of the Kenya elections is a cable from Ambassador Ranneberger from January 2, 2008 reflecting what he witnessed at the ECK. This was primarily declassified, with a few redactions.

Here are key excerpts, which deserve to be read carefully by those preparing to try for better elections this time.  It pretty well clarifies what Ranneberger saw as a credentialed observer at the ECK, and what he wanted to do, or not do, about it.

2. As previewed in ref B, much can happen between the
casting of votes and the final tabulation of ballots and it did.
This message recaps developments reported in refs, provides current
state of play, and discusses next steps. Much of our reporting
during the past three days has been done by phone given our
intensive focus on operational issues, particularly efforts to
promote a positive outcome to the election imbroglio.

3. Elaborate procedures were in place (much of it with U.S.
support) to ensure transparency and accountability of the ballot
tabulation process. . . .

5. ECK officials and observers pursued these
allegations to some extent, but the ability to do so was
constrained by lack of time, original data from polling
stations, and by the behavior of a number of ECK officials
who delayed returning results and submitted incomplete or
clearly altered documentation. Moreover, the ECK has no
authority to open ballot boxes; only the courts do. During
the night of Dec. 29, ECK officials together with
representatives of the PNU and ODM, reviewed the tabulations,
but neither side was satisfied that the review had fully
addressed their concerns. The ECK partial review of the
irregularities was also of questionable credibility, given
that all of the commission members were appointed by the
Kibaki government, and a number of them were suspected of
being clearly biased and/or involved in doctoring at ECK
headquarters. The Chairman of the ECK, Samuel Kivuitu, who
was widely respected, was surrounded by staff of uncertain
reliability and competence. It is worth noting that
parliamentary results were not disputed because they were
tabulated and announced at constituency tabulation centers,
thus allowing no interference at ECK headquarters.

6. Kivuitu has only limited authority as head of the
ECK. The ECK works on a majority vote system. It is also
important to note that the ECK is required by law to announce
the results as received at the ECK from the tabulation
centers. Some obvious irregularities like reporting
unrealistically high turnout or clearly altered results can
be rejected. There was, however, only a rejection of the
results in one constituency in which violence resulted in
destroyed ballots. Other alleged irregularities, such as
announcing results that ECK personnel personally inflated
should have been, could have been, but were not corrected. At
one point Kivuitu told me that his concerns about the
tabulation process were serious enough that “if it were up
to me, I would not announce the results.” In the end, he
participated with other commissioners in an announcement late
on the 30th, which turned rowdy when Odinga walked with armed
bodyguards into a room packed with observers, including me,
party agents, and media Kivuitu and the other commissioners
retreated to their upstairs offices, where the results were
announced. Kibaki was quickly sworn in (this was Continue reading

“Competition for Military Superiority” between Uganda and Kenya not a sign of political maturity

British Helicopter

British Helicopter at base near Nanyuki

 

The Daily Nation reports on new data on Ugandan and Kenyan defense spending from SIPRI, “Arms race hots up in East Africa”:

Competition for military superiority in the East African Community has seen Uganda’s arms expenditure surpass Kenya’s for the first time this year, a new global arms report shows.

Kampala spent US$1.02 billion (Sh83 billion) — much more than Kenya’s US$735 million (Sh61 billion), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) says. The institute does research into conflict and arms control.

The most advanced

In particular, Uganda’s acquisition of six SU-30MK Russian jets is said to have elevated its air force to one of the most advanced in East and Central Africa.

The reasons for the increased budget, according to the report, include competition for regional military superiority, especially with Kenya, and the threat of a spillover from potential conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.

Others included the operation in Somalia against Al-Shabaab where the region’s armies, including Kenya’s, are fighting under the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom), and against Joseph Kony’s rebels in the DR Congo are quoted as reasons for Uganda’s ballooning military expenditure.

The friction with Kenya over Migingo Island almost sparked a confrontation and this is also cited as justification for more military spending by Kampala.

Kenya’s military expenditure has also been going up in the last decade. The country spent only Sh14 billion on the military in 2000 compared to more than Sh60 billion today.  .  .  .

There are plenty of positive opportunities for competition and national pride within the East African Community, but acquisition of military hardware in support of governing egos is not something that is affordable for either country in the context of need, and supports the temptations of saber rattling for political gamesmanship.  Any type of military confrontation within the EAC would be an absurd tragedy.  Since the U.S. and our European allies are heavily engaged in interacting with the Ugandan and Kenyan militaries, perhaps we can be positively influential in dissuading this type of behavior in conjunction with our support for less tangible types of political reform.

A little Kenyan-American history: Kissinger, Waiyaki, Kibaki; getting the F-5s, safaris and slums

History–Kenyatta, the Kenyan military and GSU; origins of U.S. military assistance

More Kenyan-American diplomatic history: Kenyatta’s health and succession; status of whites; military assistance

DRC: “We have to debunk the idea that it is peace versus transparent elections. The idea that lousy elections are going to bring peace is madness.”

“Congo Opposition Rejects Early Poll Results,” Financial Times [It is a bad sign that "the money quote" is anonymous]:

.  .  .  .

According to the latest partial results, Mr Kabila is winning most support from the mining-rich Katanga province, his stronghold. Some observers have questioned the use of an unaudited voter registration system, which allotted Katanga 4.6m voters, 50 per cent more than the capital Kinshasa, home to 10m people.

A UN Security Council meeting last week noted some electoral irregularities but pressed for a peaceful conclusion to the polls.

“There is no [international] appetite to press for transparency, but just pushing to accept whatever result [the poll commission] comes up with is not going to bring peace,” one Congo expert told the FT. “We have to debunk the idea that it is peace versus transparent elections. The idea that lousy elections are going to bring peace is madness.”

Joshua Marks, of the National Endowment for Democracy, a US-funded foundation, said: “The Security Council wants to avoid violence at all costs. He added: “It’s patronising to the Congolese people. . . You’re still going to have these unresolved grievances in the country and an ever larger number of people against the Kabila regime.”

Despite mineral wealth in copper, gold and diamonds, Congo has slipped to the bottom of global development rankings under Mr Kabila’s latest term, as the country recovers from the 1998-2003 war in which an estimated 5m people died. A clutch of rebel militias still hold sway in the east.

A real election requires credible preparation by a credible election commission and credible dispute resolution mechanisms.  The DRC election has already gone this far (past the actual voting) without the “international community” blowing the whistle.  The Carter Center and the EU observation missions have made clear that there are serious issues with the preparation and execution of the election by the government.   The actors who have supported the process to date need to stay engaged and stay committed as the process continues.

Congolese voters need hope that it makes some difference who they voted for, just like voters anywhere are entitled to expect.  A pretense that the voters cannot believe in can be expected to drive violence.

Here is the Nov. 28 preliminary post-election statement from the Carter Center election observation mission.