“The War for History” part eleven–what did I mean in Part Ten in referring to Ranneberger “trying to quash” poll results showing Odinga taking the lead in the presidential race in September 2007?

In response to a reader inquiry, I want to make a clarification of an incident in September 2007 I referred to as background in Part Ten of this War for History series and addressed in more detail in an e-mail that I quoted at length in Part Three. The issue for me was that the Ambassador was expressing an active rather than merely passive favoritism in the Kenyan presidential race for the first time and trying to get me involved in it.

Here is what The New York Times reported in their January 30, 2009 investigative report:

. . . .

Mr. Flottman said he was surprised when, before the election, Mr. Ranneberger made public comments praising Mr. Kibaki and minimizing Kenyan corruption.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Flottman recalled, the ambassador was even more direct. A few months before the election, Mr. Ranneberger proposed releasing a voter survey showing Mr. Kibaki ahead and trying to block a roughly simultaneous one favoring Mr. Odinga, according to Mr. Flottman, who said he witnessed the episode during a meeting at the ambassador’s office. The suggestion was dropped, he said, after the embassy learned that the pro-Odinga results were already out.

In a meeting in the Ambassador’s office after I was called in to discuss the International Republican Institute’s September 2007 public opinion survey results, which were not yet released, the Ambassador expressed pleasure that our question on preference in the presidential race (which we had an established procedure of not releasing) continued to show a lead for Kibaki as we had in the last survey in March, whereas results from other firms published in the Nairobi papers were showing Odinga as having taken a lead after securing the ODM party nomination. He pressed me to depart from our practice and release our presidential numbers and instructed a member of his staff in attendance to get another firm to not to release their forthcoming presidential numbers. During the meeting the staff member got a message that the other firm had already published their report showing Odinga leading.

So as far as the other polling firm (Steadman, now Synovate) it was “a dog that didn’t bark”; the Ambassador was too late to try to quash their release, no call was made, and I had no reason to think that anyone at the Steadman firm ever knew about the incident and the Ambassador’s instruction to his assistant.

Here is what I quoted in Part Three of this series from a January 2008 e-mail:

In Sept. we did our last general public opinion survey in a series dating back to 2005 (and really a continuation of polling that we had done with Strategic with AID funding since 1999 or earlier).  We had always made a limited public release of general data, privately shown the parties and candidates their own standing and released “horserace” numbers to no one.  By this time all the other polls were being published showing Railia having overtaken Kibaki and building a lead.  Our poll had basically the same results for Kibaki that our March poll had had and showed him ahead.

When the Ambassador got this from AID I was called in and he was all excited about how we had to release our figures and stop Steadman from making a contradictory release the same day.  While we were meeting, [redacted] got an e-mail that Steadman had come out.  [Redacted] agreed with me that changing our policy on this last poll before the election would be transparently and blatantly seen as political, and she told me [redacted] agreed and would work it.  I laid low and never heard back. . .

Telling thing Ambassador said was to the effect that our poll would vindicate what he had been telling Washington, and that if he had misread presidential race “we might as well not even be here”.

And my narrative from Part Ten:

Part of what has troubled me is my conversation with the USAID CTO on the phone from a polling place on the afternoon of the vote on December 27.  It had been agreed internally within IRI that we should not allow any report of our preliminary presidential numbers to leave IRI until after the polls closed at 5:00pm.  We knew that USAID wanted to get the preliminary results that afternoon, and Peter Oriare had estimated that they could be available at 3:00pm.  Within IRI we did not want to be responsible for any situation where the numbers leaked to either the Kibaki or Odinga campaigns before the poll closing, or got out in the media while people were still voting.  This was clearly “best practice”.

More specifically to our particular situation in Nairobi, we were very concerned since we had already been pressured by the Ambassador to depart from precedent to release the numbers he liked from our September poll while he sought to quash the Steadman numbers he didn’t like.  Further, when Ranneberger expressed to me in our meeting at his residence on December 15, 2007 that he wanted to take our lead delegate Connie Newman to meet privately with Kibaki aide Stanley Murage the day before the election major alarm bells had gone off in the IRI front office and it was stressed that such an improper meeting “must not happen”.  We did not know what the Ambassador was up to but knew we needed not to be involved in it.  In this context the desire not to let exit poll numbers get out while voting was still open very much included having them go to the Ambassador in particular.  We had no contractual obligation at all to get USAID an early disclosure on election day.

So observing at a polling place where we were going to close the voting day late that afternoon I got a call from the CTO looking for the preliminary numbers and I put her off.  I had numbers by text message from Peter Oriare but had not been able to study them in detail and go through them carefully with Peter and I tried to put her off.  She got frustrated and said that she would never have had us do the election observation if she thought we could not handle getting her the preliminary exit poll numbers at the same time we were observing and that “the whole reason” they did the exit poll was for “early intelligence of the Ambassador”.  I’m not against intelligence in concept, and I was working for IRI on leave from my job with a defense contractor that does intelligence work, but my purpose and job in Kenya was to support democracy and I did not appreciate being told at that late hour that there was an underlying unexpressed ulterior motive to the polling agreement all along–and such a thing was explicitly contrary to formal IRI policy as well as our USAID agreement. Why was it so important that the Ambassador have the numbers right then–“early”–instead of an hour and a half or so later when the polls closed?  No explanation of that was given.  The USAID officer ended up calling Peter Oriare, our subcontractor, and extracted the numbers directly from him.  Who did the Ambassador share them with and when?  I have no way to know.

I also want to stress that I had confidence in both Strategic Public Relations and Research which did our public opinion surveys and our exit polls for the 2002 and 2007 general elections and 2005 constitutional referendum, and in Steadman, which I hired in December 2007 to do a last minute pre-election survey of the Langata parliamentary constituency after the Ambassador had surprisingly suggested that “people were saying” that Raila Odinga might lose his parliamentary seat there to Stanley Livando and thus loses his eligibility to be elected president. The Ambassador’s expressed but unfulfilled desire to try to quash Steadman’s previous report caused me concern about the Ambassador, not about the polling firm.

“The War for History” part six: USAID ended up saying exit poll “disclosed that the wrong candidate was declared the winner” in 2007 Kenya election

From USAID’s Frontlines magazine for August 2008:

Kenya’s President Lost Disputed Election, Poll Shows
NAIROBI, Kenya—An exit poll carried out with a grant from USAID in Kenya after elections six months ago that unleashed a wave of political and ethic killings, disclosed that the wrong candidate was declared the winner.

President Mwai Kibaki, whom official results credited with a two-point margin of victory in the December vote, finished nearly 6 points behind in the exit poll, which was released in July by researchers from the University of
California, San Diego.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga scored “a clear win outside the margin of error” according to surveys of voters as they left polling places on Election Day, the poll’s author said.

The exit poll was first reported on by the McClatchy news agency. It was financed by the International Republican Institute, a nonpartisan democracy-building organization, with a grant from USAID.

Amid post-election violence, IRI decided not to release the poll. But the poll’s authors and the former head of the institute’s program in Kenya stand by the research, which the authors presented July 8 in Washington at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In the exit poll, Odinga had 46.07 percent of the vote and Kibaki had 40.17
percent.

Ironies in Open Government: Was the Kenya PVT a “Parallel Vote Tabulation” or “Private Vote Tabulation”?

Kenya Pre-election Poll

So now we have results of both a “Parallel Vote Tabulation” and an Exit Poll for the March 4, 2013 Kenyan election.

The irony here is that the Exit Poll was privately funded, yet we have, courtesy of the video of the initial university presentation by the researchers Dr. Clark Gibson, Professor at the University of California, San Diego, and Dr. James Long, visiting scholar at Harvard and appointed as Asst. Professor at the University of Washington, quite a bit more detail about the Exit Poll data than we do about the PVT.  The PVT, however, was funded at least in substantial part, apparently, by yours truly and the rest of the American taxpayers through USAID through NDI. (This is the best information available to me–please correct me if I am wrong.)

I mean no disrespect to any of the people involved at NDI or ELOG–or at USAID for that matter.  I am sure everyone did their best on the PVT.  But when do we see the details instead of just a conclusion?  

After all the controversy about the delay in the release of the USAID-funded IRI Exit Poll in 2007-08, I am just very much surprised that everyone involved this time did not chose to try to get in front of any problems and controversies by being more transparent.

I do not want to weigh in to any of the back and forth as to “which is better” between an Exit Poll and a PVT–in fairness they have their relative strengths and weaknesses–it is best to have both.  So let’s get the data out on the table for study and see what we can learn.

To avoid confusion about the Kenyan ELOG “Parallel Vote Tabulation” . . .

Quote

Freeandfair Kenya on March 11, 2013 at 11:14 am said:

The most publicly available check on the elections — the Parallel Vote Tabulation done by ELOG did everyone a disservice by saying their results were “consistent” with the IEBC’s. This makes it sound as if it supported the IEBC’s count. It does nothing of the kind. See http://www.ndi.org/files/Kenya-ELOG-PVT-statement-030913.pdf. Not only do they find that Uhuru received 49.7% of the vote, they have a margin of error of 2.7%. This means that MOST of their prediction is for a RUNOFF. A tragic, incorrect, and unprofessional use of terms.

This was a comment in response to my post “Overall Observation on the Observations”–this is important and apparently there has been some confusion.

Warnings to Take Seriously for Kenya’s March Election . . . and something to enjoy

The Council on Foreign Relations has just published a “Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 17” regarding “Electoral Violence in Kenya” by Joel Barkan, of CSIS and professor emeritus from the University of Iowa.

Well worth a careful review. Joel Barkan is a dean among the community of American scholars of Kenyan and East African politics who has also worked on the democracy and governance assistance side with USAID in Kenya during the birth pangs of 1992 and made the transition to the policy world in Washington through his post at the CSIS Africa Program and activities such as helping to spearhead the “Kenya Working Group” to put together a broad range of people in Washington working on Kenya issues to generate necessary focus within the U.S. government. Joel was our “resident expert” among the Election Observation delegates for the International Republican Institute observation for the 2007 Kenyan election and had the singular position of being independently identified as someone we wanted as a delegate by both IRI staff and as a “suggestion” to me from Ambassador Ranneberger.

Someday, when a careful history is written of the last Kenyan election and its aftermath, Joel will be noted as one of those who helped the United States get its diplomatic response turned around in part so that we were then able to assist in addressing the crisis presented by the failed election. He spoke out from Kenya and immediately afterwards back in Washington about the obvious failure of the ECK central tally in Nairobi–and raised in Washington the failure to release and use the IRI/USAID exit poll data as a clear indicator that the ECK’s announced numbers did not justify the intransigence being shown by Kibaki and his networks of “hardliners”. Thus, Joel is an obvious person to pay attention to in preparing for the 2013 election.

Let me also flag the comment to my last post entitled “Countdown to Chaos” from Andrew J. Franklin, an American former Marine who has lived in Kenya since the 1970s. I don’t know Mr. Franklin personally yet outside the blog, but this is a warning “straight from the ground” in Kenya, from someone with involvement in the security business. It is a lot easier for expats in Kenya to keep their heads down and say nothing, so I take his cautions with extra gravity.

In closing, let me refer you to a video from bloggingheadstv.com with Mark Leon Goldberg of UN Dispatch and Wycliffe Muga of Nairobi’s The Star. Regular readers will have noticed that I cite Wycliffe Muga’s Star columns frequently as having noteworthy insight. I didn’t get to meet nearly as many Kenyan journalists as I would have liked while working the last election, in part because I wasn’t wanting to be in the media myself and in part because I was just too busy with the immediate demands of the job with the programs I was responsible for. Nonetheless, I did get to meet Wycliffe in person early on and got tutored in some important intricacies of Kenyan politics, both historically and in terms of the current situation in Mombasa at that time where he was living then. I will call Wycliffe a friend, like Joel, in the interest of disclosure and because I like them both–but please don’t assume that either of them necessarily ever agree with me on anything I write here!

I think it might be fair to call Wycliffe something of an “Ameriphile”, which of course I appreciate as an American myself. In this bloggingheadstv discussion, Wycliffe perhaps provides a “shot in the arm” for those of us who might get discouraged by some of our more feckless foreign policy moments and expresses appreciation for what the United States did ultimately do in applying muscle to leverage a mediated settlement of the Kenyan 2007-08 election crisis, as well as, in particular, health assistance in the form of PEPFAR.

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Kenyan voter registration underway; new poll and new security incidents

Garissa
GARISSA

Kenya’s biometric voter registration finally got underway yesterday, with relatively low turnout.  The main reported glitch appeared to be problems with BVR kits losing power after using up their battery life.  The registration period runs through December 18.  Because of the delays with the BVR kit purchase, the deadline of December 4 for formation of party coalitions, three months before election day, falls during the middle of the registration period.

A substantive enfranchisement problem is that only those possessing and producing an official national identity card or Kenyan passport are permitted to register.  Those waiting for identity cards will be out of luck so a burden will rest on the Registrar of Persons to expedite issuance of identify cards.  See the official announcement from the IEBC here.

An op/ed piece in The Nation from Prof. Kefa Otiso of Bowling Green University, the president of the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association, raises disenfranchisement concerns about the current version of the IEBC’s plans for diaspora registration and voting in the U.S., which would require in person registration and subsequent voting in Washington, New York or Los Angeles.

The new Synovate poll shows Odinga continuing as the front-runner, followed by Uhuru in a solid second position, but both have slipped slightly since their last poll in September.  Here is the report from The Star on the Ipsos Synovate press conference:

Prime Minister Raila Odinga who is the poll’s leading candidate has 33 per cent, followed closely by Uhuru Kenyatta with 26 per cent.

Both candidates have dropped in popularity since the last Synovate polls conducted in September. Raila has lost three percent while Kenyatta has lost four per cent of the votes.

Candidates and areas that have gained in the polls are Eldoret North MP and presidential hopeful William Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

They have both of gained three per cent popularity poll. Additionally the number of undecided voters has increased to 11 per cent up from nine per cent in September.

Dr. Tom Wolf, a socio-political analyst with Ipsos Synovate attributed this shortfall of votes by the candidates to the unfinalised political alliances.

In the meantime, Nairobi remains tense after the latest Sunday matatu bombing, this time killing several people in Eastleigh, followed by rioting with Somalis targeted.  Garissa is under curfew following the shooting of three Kenya Defense Forces soldiers, which then led to what the BBC is calling an army “crackdown” with at least 8 Kenyans shot and 50 wounded.  The Kenyan Defense Minister told BBC that he did not authorize the action, which naturally raises its own set of questions.

Vote Buying and Women Candidates in Kenya

Following up on my last post noting the FRIDE study assessing democracy assistance in Kenya, here is a paragraph from a paper I drafted for the “briefing book” for our IRI 2007 election observation delegates.  This is an example of the challenges faced in seeking to bolster female candidates while staying in graces with the powers that be:

While we at IRI try to train women candidates to do the most that they can with the least resources, and to find non-traditional sources of funds, the reality is that Kenyan political culture places heavy financial demands on those seeking office—from the fact that vote buying is extremely common, accepted and expected, to the fact that there is very little “free” or “earned” media available for races below the presidential level.  Most women running for parliament will face daunting challenges financially.   [On vote buying, 20% in our IRI/USAID poll admitted accepting money on this basis—I suspect the real number is significantly higher.   A senior minister in government who has done training for IRI in the past explained unashamedly how in this year’s campaign he will spend twice what he has in the past, but will use his established practice of keeping crisp flat bills in denominations of 50, 100 and 200 KSh in his suit pockets as he campaigns, to be distributed based on the socio-economic and gender status of the potential voter.]

An interesting academic inquiry into vote buying in Kenya is posted here at the Working Group for African Political Economy.