Kenyan voter registration underway; new poll and new security incidents


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.

Uganda Election one month out–the polls

Is the Ugandan election a foregone conclusion at this point?  Africa Confidential has said sort of yes and sort of no.  It seems that there is something of a consensus that the multiplicity of opposition candidates means no one of them can really rival Museveni.  On the other hand, does Museveni clearly have 50% support in his own right? And does that matter to the official outcome of the election?

The Daily Monitor has a fascinating story about the status of the polling and the media reporting on the polling that indicates a great deal about the actual situation in Uganda right now, and how little is actually known:

When an opinion poll by AfroBarometer/Wilsken was published last December, it was the first indicator of the possible public mood.

The poll inevitably caused celebration among the NRM camp and angry protests among the opposition and their supporters.

Amid all the heated reaction to this poll, what most for and against it forgot to note was that the final question of the poll asked the respondents who they thought had sent AfroBarometer to conduct the poll. Over 63 percent of respondents said they believed AfroBarometer had been sent by the government.

The fact that such a large number of respondents believed the poll had been commissioned by the NRM government (an interested party in the 2011 election) was the very point that nullifies the 66 percent lead that the poll showed NRM candidate Yoweri Museveni to be enjoying, since it proved that respondents were playing it safe and responding out of fear.

Planting seeds
However, it was the first major poll of the 2010 campaign season and as such was at least a starting point. Had it stopped at that, many people might have reflected on it and it might have shaped perceptions of what February 2011 might bring.

Then two weeks later, the New Vision published results of what it called its own poll, which put Museveni at 65 percent. This too was met with protests and accusations that as a government-owned paper the New Vision obviously had an interest in portraying Museveni as enjoying an unassailable lead.

However, last week when the New Vision published a poll supposedly by the research firm Synovate (formerly Steadman & Associates), supposedly commissioned by the FDC/IPC, and supposedly showing Museveni with a lead of 67 percent, and when Synovate publicly disassociated itself from this New Vision story the following day, then opinion polls for the 2011 general election had reached the point of diminishing returns.

The New Vision had overreached itself. It was now viewed as having planted this story in its pages by fraud and so, of course, the so-called Synovate poll could now be discarded as null and void.

However, it raises a number of questions. For one, if the New Vision could publish a poll it fraudulently claimed had been commissioned by the IPC and was proved to be fraudulent, how could we now trust that the New Vision in its own internal poll that had been honest with that 65 percent result?

And now, come to think of it, how can we be sure of any poll that purports to reflect Ugandan public opinion in 2010 and 2011?

By publishing this fraudulent poll that Synovate publicly dismissed, the election is back into the territory of the unknown.
The mid 60s percentage points that had started taking shape in people’s minds as a figure to believe or dismiss or at least debate, are now irrelevant. . . .

On the always fascinating question of what Kenyan politicians are up to in Uganda:

“As Kenyan leaders troop to Uganda, Museveni makes political capital”, Charles Onyango-Obbo in The East African.