Kenya’s 2010 Constitution, endorsed after the 2007-08 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, stipulates that a candidate wins the presidency if he or she has more than half of all votes cast in the election.
That makes it very difficult, given the anticipated closeness of the race, for either top candidate to reach the 50 per cent mark needed to win outright. As such, a runoff between the top two candidates is expected.
Then there are these reports of hundreds of thousands of ‘spoilt votes’. It is reported that at least 330,000 ballots have been rejected owing to irregularities in part blamed on problems with voter education efforts.
The election commission has said these spoilt votes will still count, which could swing the pendulum and affect the outcome of the election.
Returns for most of the first day of voting placed Kenyatta with 53 per cent and Odinga with 42 per cent but Kenyatta’s percentage was likely to drop after the decision on the rejected votes.
One informed observer from a UK-based university but currently in Kenya for the polls said if Odinga’s performance indeed improved, there would be no escaping a runoff.
Should that be the case, it is hard to say exactly how things will work out this time around compared to the tragic events that followed the last elections.
To its credit Kenya has an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ably supported by state-of-the-art technology, even as there are reports of sporadic cases of technical hitches.
It is to be hoped that these will have been overcome and that the final result of the elections will be accurate and fair enough for all parties concerned to concur that they participated in an honourable and patriotic event of national importance and relevance.
The threat of violence may have loomed but, by most indications on the ground, Kenyans are too experienced taking part in elections and have learnt too many harsh lessons from them to ready themselves for a repeat of the tragic scenarios.
Kenya will not be the first country in the world to experience hiccups while implementing “projects” of such immense proportions as the General Election just held.
If anything, there are many positive signals the country has sent out for the outside world to learn from – which is in and by itself a fantastic achievement.
We are impressed having witnessed the election results smoothly trickling in with Kenyans holding their breath as they waited for the final verdict but all very calmly and peacefully despite projections to the contrary by prophets of doom.
It was a remarkable feat for Kenyans to have cast six different kinds of ballots simultaneously – for the president, governor, senator, members of parliament, women’s representative and county assembly or ward representative.
Also for the first time, the presidential ballots bore the pictures and names of the eight candidates and their running mates.
All things considered, the air in Kenya is volatile but the people’s determination to ensure peace prevails should see Kenyan triumph despite all odds. We salute them.