Issack Hassan speaks out on the highs and lows of IEBC in 2013

                                                              Ahmed Issack Hassan

By Ahmed Issack Hassan

The management of the March 4, General Election was both a test and a triumph.

For the first time, we conducted six elections in one day, under the new constitutional dispensation.

It stretched us to the limits- in logistics, personnel, resources and technological systems. Preparing for such a congested electoral calendar was a race against time that I will never forget.

We had managed to register 14.3 million voters electronically using the Biometric Voter Registration, despite the challenges in acquiring and implementing the technology.

This was a big plus. But then we were confronted by technological glitches with the complimenting technology of Electronic Voter Identification (EVID).

People’s will

Indeed, we had our highs and lows. But whatever the challenge, we strived to ensure the process was free and fair and that the will of the people carried the day.

The outcome of the court petitions filed largely confirms our credibility.

We have won most of the petitions and for the few we lost and have had to conduct by-elections, the results mirror the initial voting.  The last minute changes to the election laws by Parliament compounded our situation just as did the disorderly political party primaries.

The technology for identifying voters electronically and that for transmission of provisional results failed us.

The electronic transmission of results has been very successful from the time it was introduced by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission in 2009.

It worked perfect during the referendum in 2010 but it was certainly overwhelmed by the March 4, General Election.

Remedial measures

We were lucky we had remedial measures that ensured the processes were not compromised.

But it pains to see extremely partisan posture that deliberately overlooks facts in order to project IEBC in negative light.

 It is a subtle creation of a false narrative that the IEBC bungled the election or was a party to any theft of the polls.

The election observers and the Supreme Court said the elections were largely free and fair despite the administrative and logistical problems.

We set out to do just and to serve this country with outmost diligence. People should not read mischief in technical challenges.

The other thing that pains me is the arrest and arraignment in court of senior IEBC officials over issues of procurement of the EVID.

Since this is a matter in court, I would not want to comment further.

The March 4, General Election which, we carried out under extremely strenuous timeliness, was free, fair and peaceful.

The Supreme Court Judgment on the Presidential Elections petitions vindicated the work of the IEBC and confirmed the election was conducted in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

The year has just brought to an end a number of by-elections that arose from court petitions from the general elections.

We are not shouting from roof tops but everyone knows they have been conducted with world class professionalism.

You need to watch the people watching the provisional results hit the big screens at tallying centres to appreciate the meticulous planning and execution by IEBC’s professional and committed team.

There are many untold success stories at the electoral body. I was awarded an International award by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies for outstanding achievement in election management and conflict prevention.

Election Bodies

I am also the chairperson of the Commonwealth Election Network and a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of World Election Bodies.

There have been great lessons of diffusion of innovation. We should have had more time to test new technologies before deploying. We also needed to manage public expectations.

We probably should have been more candid and asked for a little more time- two weeks or so beyond March 4, for the election date.

But you will recall the mood then was for the earliest possible date for the elections. It is not feasible and sustainable to hold 6 elections on the same day.

There is need to look at regional and international best practice where elections are staggered. We will use our powers more effectively in punishing election offenders and violations of political party and candidate nominations rules.

Elections and politicians come and go but Kenya is one nation that belongs to all of us. We should guard it jealously. There is more that unites us than divides us.

We should stop looking at everything through a tribal or political prism. The new Constitution has created independent institutions and governance structures that require time to grow and mature. 

Hassan is the chairman of IEBC