Orderly elections proof of our democratic maturity

A man verifying voter data at the KICC polling station, August 9, 2022. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

As scheduled, Kenyans voted for a new crop of leaders on August 9, 2022. Constitutionally, Kenyans go to the polls on the second Tuesday of August every five years.

And unlike in past elections, there are some things worth bragging about this year's general election.

First, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) acquitted itself in many regards considering the challenges and pitfalls placed in its way. IEBC officials did their best and as result, the long queues usually associated with elections were missing, not only because of the not-so-good voter turnout, but also due to the polling agency's prior planning.

However, that is not to say the elections were smooth sailing. A spot check in some of the polling stations when voting started showed utter confusion. Voting booths were not clearly labelled and there were no election officials to guide confused voters.

In many places, people moved from one tent to another trying to find out where their names fell in alphabetical order. It was time-consuming.

The Kiems kits in many stations were a big letdown and ended up necessitating the use of the manual register. Had that not been done, many voters would have been disenfranchised. Where the kits worked well, the exercise progressed without complaints.

Importantly, the need to employ both manual and biometric voting options became apparent. There were instances when the biometric kits failed to identify fingerprints, mostly of the elderly, whose hands are scarred by hard labour. In such cases, and where network connectivity is erratic, the manual register came in handy.

The swift transmission of results and publishing of Form 34A on the IEBC website is commendable and will go a long way in bolstering the credibility of this and future elections.

Majority of the voters also conducted extremely well in and outside polling stations. Even where there were hiccups, Kenyans waited patiently for their turn to vote.

And although some politicians had fouled the air with threats and insults during the campaigns, voters, by and large, carried themselves with decorum during the elections and there were a few, if any, ugly incidents.

However, there were isolated cases of violence including a shooting at a polling station. Such incidents put a blot on our democratic fabric and should be condemned. Our laws provide avenues through which people who are dissatisfied with electoral outcomes can lodge their complaints.

Rather than use violence, aggrieved parties have every right to go to court to seek redress. That is what we expect all candidates who feel aggrieved - from MCA to the presidential - level to do. They must not resort to draconian measures such as inciting their supporters to cause mayhem. Notably, some candidates have shown political maturity by conceding after sensing defeat. That is unusual in Kenya and a sign that we are on the right path.

Kenya, the paragon of democracy in the region, must lead by example. This election should mark a turning point.