The European Union (EU) election observation mission has called for urgent electoral reforms to secure Kenya’s future elections.
Led by Chief Observer, Ms Marietje Schaake, the mission has made 29 recommendations that should be implemented to make elections credible and transparent in the country.
Key recommendations include reforms aimed at improving resilience of independent institutions, inclusive legal reform, improved ICT arrangements and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) oversight, a legal requirement for a comprehensive results framework, and a review of the electoral system to promote the participation of women and inclusivity.
Schaake, while releasing the mission’s final report on the 2017 General Election on Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium of the 29 recommendations offered by the EU EOM, 18 require changes in the primary legislation.
She noted that five would be desirable to secure the suggested changes in law while the remaining three would involve change in the Constitution without a referendum.
“All recommendations are based on extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders,” she said.
The mission accused the ruling party Jubilee and the Opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) for breaking electoral laws and fuelling animosity in the country.
She castigated the political leaders for disrespect for independent offices and misuse of public resources.
They accused politicians from both sides of attempts at restricting civil society and media, and abuse of state resources by both sides but mostly to the benefit of the national incumbent.
Other key concerns in the report are intimidation by politicians from both sides of independent institutions, such as the IEBC and the judiciary, some violence by opposition protestors and the use of disproportionate force by security forces.
“The Kenyan people, including five million young people able to vote for the first time, showed eagerness to participate in shaping the future of their country,” Schaake said.
She added, “However, the electoral process was damaged by political leaders attacking independent institutions and by a lack of dialogue between the two sides, with escalating disputes and violence.”
Jubilee was also criticised for its unilateral amendments to electoral legislation during the fresh election, harsh rhetoric against the judiciary and acts of intimidation against civil society.
“These were highly antagonistic and not consistent with international commitments and good practice for democratic functioning,” Schaake said.
The observers decried disproportionate actions by security forces (including the use of live fire), costing dozens of lives and also reportedly involved sexual violence.
“Criminal elements and gangs also contributed to the violence. There was an increasingly ethnic dimension, with ethnic profiling and threats observed in different parts of the country,” Schaake said.
NASA supporters were also accused of intimidation as some checked to see if some people had indelible ink on their fingers from voting.
The observers noted that in Nyanza there were severe obstructions and violence, resulting in the IEBC declaring indefinite postponement of polling in 25 constituencies (out of a national total of 290).
The mission also noted that the Supreme Court’s annulment of the August presidential election was historic in ruling against an incumbent president and for focusing on the process of the election rather than the result.
“The ruling appeared to prompt improvements in results transmission, verification and transparency in the fresh presidential election in October and thus raised standards of public service. However, the political environment deteriorated sharply,” Schaake said.
She hoped that final report will contribute to more resilient democracy from which all Kenyans benefit.
“Kenyans went from high hopes for these elections to many disappointments and confrontations. Kenya remains deeply divided. Our final report and recommendations are intended to contribute to a better democratic process and a restoration of trust,” she said.
She said the report was released in Brussels after the Kenyan government stated it was not prepared to receive the Chief Observer in Nairobi at this time.