Experts warn elections could fail long before polling day

Many unanswered questions about the integrity of elections in Kenya continue to linger with eyes perched on August 8, 2017.

Experts caution that elections can fail long before the material day. Attention needs to be paid to the electoral dynamics and institutional quality over the cycle, not just on the polling day.

Unless cautionary measures are taken into account, risks for another botched election whose results can be disputed with the risk of tearing apart the nation remain alive.

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During a meeting on electoral integrity in Nairobi last week, Ferran Martinez of the University of Sidney said the integrity of elections can be undermined by the lack of a level playing field in the legal regulations, limits on party ballot access, skewed registration of voters, unequal campaign resources, voter suppression, counting irregularities and fraud.

Dr Martinez argued that electoral laws, procedures and boundaries largely determine the integrity of elections.

"Electoral laws should determine if such legislation is unfair to small parties, favours governing party or parties or restricts citizen's rights," he said.

Electoral procedures, he argued, should be well managed and information about voting procedures made widely available with officials being seen as fair, and the election itself conducted in accordance with the law.

While no boundaries will be reviewed in the run-up to the 2017 polls, it should be clear that the existing boundaries do not discriminate against some parties, favour incumbents and are impartial.

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"Kenya, like other countries around the world, faces common challenges of holding contests that meet international standards of electoral integrity," Martinez said.

Pollster Tom Wolf of Ipsos Synovate said much attention should be paid to the distribution of identity cards, and those eligible voters who have not been captured in the voter register.

"Verifiability of the voters' register remains crucial to having an election that passes the  integrity test. The issue of procurement and testing of technology for transmission of votes needs to be locked down before the 2017 General Election," Mr Wolf said.

Experts have also cited the security of the electoral environment to facilitate the free movement and campaigns during party nominations.

2017 general electioncordjubilee