Server politics: The big gamble for Raila Odinga

When a team of former Kisumu county governor Jack Ranguma and the incumbent Anyang' Nyong'o went through IEBC servers at the county IEBC offices on November 13,2017. [File, Standard]

The opposition’s continued push for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to open servers will not change the outcome of last year’s elections, according to an observer.

From the time Azimio submitted the petition against the presidential results, it has been pushing for the opening of IEBC servers, a demand that among others has inspired anti-government protests.  

Last year, Smartmatic International Holding B.V, the supplier of voting technology, declined to open the national tallying centre servers, citing security issues. Since then, information inside the servers remains a preserve of IEBC.

Election Observation Group (Elog) National Coordinator Mule Musau yesterday emphasised that all electoral processes are guided by laws.

Mr Musau explained that whatever information may arise from opening the servers will not alter the outcome of the 2022 presidential election, as the Supreme Court had already made a ruling on the matter.

“If we were to get this data we are talking about in terms of the server, if it was to show any differences, this would not affect the outcome of the elections,” said Musau.

In January, Azimio through Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni claimed that its presidential candidate in the August 9, 2022, General Election, Raila Odinga, won the elections.

Citing a report released by an alleged IEBC whistle-blower, Azimio stated that Raila won the polls after garnering 8,170,355 votes ahead of Ruto who reportedly got 5,919,973 votes.

“We cannot overturn the results of last year’s election on the basis of any new evidence now. The decision of the Supreme Court is not subject to review since it is called a final decision,” said Musau.

He maintained that servers and electronic processes are just aids to the electoral process, but they serve no purpose in terms of the authentication of the results.

The election observer said given that the opposition has not raised issues with the declaration forms from the polling station, it will be difficult to substantiate any foul play in the outcome.

“The authentication of the results is done at the polling stations when a Presiding Officer announces and we have agents, observers and media people in that space to authenticate the process,” he said.

However, laws surrounding access to information might put the electoral agency to task when it comes to opening the servers. Election observers argue that opening the IEBC servers would enhance the electoral process in future and improve understanding of the technology used.

Musau said that opening of servers should create an opportunity to understand the systems with a view to improving them.

“If the servers are holding public data, shouldn’t we have a setup that allows more transparency for observers, agents and other people to have a level of access to authenticate the information,” he said.

Asked why the opposition has not sought a court order for recount of the ballot rather than push for opening of servers, ODM Secretary General and Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna said: “Why would we want to go that way and yet the law itself says an election should be verifiable in all its aspects. From the time the ballots are dropped in the ballot boxes counted and sealed to transmission of results, IEBC should be able to show that all through the stages the election process was free fair and the results are verifiable.”

“One thing is that the election thieves steal through technology by manipulating it. And so the surest way for anyone to prove that the election has been worn is through the technology that was used,” he added.

But Musau contends that having observed elections in Kenya since 2010, the problem with the electoral system has nothing to do with technology but trust in the system.

In recent months, leaders from across the political divide have differed over the Constitution of the IEBC selection panel with the opposition citing malice.

“The story starts with how we are setting up the election management body itself. Do we trust the people who get there and the way the commission has been set up that it will deliver free and fair elections,” said Musau.

He said it would be better to have all parties on board during the reconstitution of the electoral agency.