Lead from the Standard (and today’s most read on-line story):
A US official revisited the controversial 2007 presidential election when she said her country was aware two million dead voters were not weeded from the electoral register as pressure on reforms mounted. US Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero said America is aware that there were over two million dead voters whose names remained in the register and voted in 2007. “We are aware that over two million people voted in 2007, so we will support the process of compiling a new voter register. At a time the whole world is watching Kenya, we want to be there with our support,” Ms Otero said. She spoke on Thursday during a meeting with Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Nairobi where she affirmed the US pledge to fund the reform agenda, including new voter registration by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. Otero, who was accompanied by US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, said America will support the IIEC with the ambassador saying they are putting together “a couple of millions of dollars” for IIEC.
One of the devilish inconsistencies here, of course, is reflected in what the State Department’s Africa Bureau had to say about the 2007 election in a new edition of its “Background Notes” for Kenya issued January 10: “On December 27, 2007, Kenya held presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections. While the parliamentary and local government elections were largely credible, the presidential election was seriously flawed, with irregularities in the vote tabulation process as well as turnout in excess of 100% in some constituencies.” The problem of course is that 2 million dead people didn’t vote for President alone–they also voted for Members of Parliament. The Standard article ties Otero’s remarks to the report of the Kreigler Commission, which noted large numbers of dead voters on the roles, among many systemic failures and basically found the whole process deeply questionable (while declining to excercise its mandate to investigate the presidential voting and tallying specifically–citing lack of time and resources as well as lack of feasibility–not so surprising perhaps from a Commission reporting to the Kenyan President, which met privately with the President before reporting, and that was funded by at least one donor who was not supportive of that mandate). You really can’t have this both ways. If the major problem with the 2007 elections was systemic then you cannot plausibly act like there isn’t a problem about who did and didn’t end up in Parliament vis a vis how actual live Kenyans voted or intended to vote.
This matters a lot right now when you have the Constitutional Review process seemingly taken over by a Parliamentary Commission. My personal opinion is that both sets of election problems are fully real: the presence of dead voters and all the other across-the-board systemic failures identified by the Kreigler Commission are substantiated; likewise, the observations and allegations of specific misconduct in the presidential race asserted by civil society and international observers and diplomats are also real. Thus, we do not have a legitimate democratic government in Kenya and the notion that the present coalition of convenience could effectively govern the country for a full five year term and actually deliver major reforms is wishful thinking.
In the meantime, the British High Commissioner warned of the potential for 2012 poll violence.
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