NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 13 – Foreign delegates at the National Conference on Electoral Reforms have emphasised the need to have credible commissioners and the use of technology to ensure future elections in Kenya are free and fair.
Speaking during the second day of the conference, the Chairperson of South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission Brigalia Bam said the use of technology in all polling levels in her country has ensured that errors are eliminated. She laid emphasis on the need to track election forms at every step of the polls.
“After the Kenya experience we introduced scanning methods in the municipalities in which the voting forms are stored in the computer. This one is able to trace that a certain individual voted at a specific polling station at a certain time,” Dr Bam said.
In the South African System the results from the municipalities are relayed to the results centre electronically. As the electoral body receives the results the same are relayed to the political parties. The parties are required to second technicians as part of their party agents to the electoral body who are connected to the system for this purpose.
“We have a system where the parties can raise their objections immediately, then we are able to deal with them,” she said.
Comparatively the Kenyan elections are relayed manually to the tallying centre in Nairobi via telephone. Parties have no official access to the progressive tallying of votes like in South Africa. In the 2007 poll, parties accused officials at the tallying centre of manipulating the figures from the grassroots.
On his part the Vice Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana David Kangah emphasised the appointment of non-partisan Commissioners to handle the process. He gave the example of his country in which independent bodies are engaged in vetting the commissioners shunning interference from the Executive and other politicians. The list is then sent to Parliament where members vet the names before the President officially appoints them.
“I don’t have to look back to see whether the President of Ghana is watching me as I do work or not because he can’t do anything to me. If he has to do anything concerning my appointment he has to go through the legal process,” said Mr Kangah.
He added: “The seven members of the Commission have done their work professionally.”
Dr Bam added that in his country the process of appointing the commissioners is very stringent and transparently done.
“For starters one can not apply; someone else has to do that for you. Then when it comes to the interview it is done openly,” she said.
Over the years in Kenya the President has had the sole power to appoint commissioners giving room to perceptions of manipulation and suspicion over the impartiality of the commissioners. After disbanding the former Electoral Commission of Kenya that presided over the 2007 bungled elections Parliament amended the law to have the commissioners competitively sourced leaving the Head of State with the privilege to select the officials from a forwarded list.
The conference has been organised to enrich the country’s reform path as the country seeks to avoid the recurrence of the 2007 election results disputes.
While giving his input on Thursday Kenya Wildlife Service Managing Director Julius Kipngetich proposed that the Presidential election be held on different days with the parliamentary and civic ones to ease the pressure on the electoral body.
“I know it is expensive but democracy is expensive,” he said.
Dr Kipngetich also proposed that there be a clear separation between the executive and parliament where ministers are appointed outside the house.