The Star (Kenya) - - Politics -

HE gov­ern­ment has tra­di­tion­ally man­aged elec­tions in Kenya. In the early In­de­pen­dence era, elec­tions were man­aged by the Direc­torate of Elec­tions. This was a small depart­ment in the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s of­fice and it had District Com­mis­sion­ers as Re­turn­ing Of­fi­cers. It was not un­til the clam­our for mul­ti­party democ­racy in the late 1980s and early ’90s that calls for the gov­ern­ment to get out of elec­tion man­age­ment were first sounded.

Even then the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Kenya that was formed to pre­side over the first mul­ti­party poll in 1992 was noth­ing more than an ex­ten­sion of the Ex­ec­u­tive. It was Pres­i­dent Daniel arap Moi who ap­pointed all the 11 com­mis­sion­ers. There was no in­put from the Op­po­si­tion. It would take an­other push by civil so­ci­ety groups, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and faith­based in­sti­tu­tions for the the ECK ar­chi­tec­ture to be re­formed through the In­ter-Party Par­lia­men­tary Group (IPPG) re­forms.

Un­der this ar­range­ment, non­state ac­tors for the first time got an op­por­tu­nity to play a role in the man­age­ment of elec­tions. Even then the non-state ac­tors’ man­date to man­age the process was lim­ited, as gov­ern­ment con­trol re­mained tight. The point is that man­age­ment of elec­tions has been, and will al­ways be, a gov­ern­ment thing.

Pres­i­dent Mwai Kibaki would worsen the sit­u­a­tion when he ig­nored the IPPG and went on to ap­point ECK com­mis­sion­ers with­out ref­er­ence to civil so­ci­ety and Op­po­si­tion groups. The 2007 post-elec­tion vi­o­lence and at­tempts to re­form the ECK are well doc­u­mented. Even with the emer­gence of the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion, the gov­ern­ment has only re­luc­tantly ac­cepted the in­evitable re­al­ity that it has no role in the ap­point­ment of com­mis­sion­ers. It per­sists in its de­sire to con­trol the IEBC through other, un­der­hand, schemes. Even though in law and on pa­per the gov­ern­ment has no power to ap­point elec­tion man­agers, it has al­ways cir­cum­vented the law to have its way. For good mea­sure, this is not a prob­lem lim­ited to Kenya, all gov­ern­ments around the world do it.

The rea­son why we have such a high turnover of elec­tion man­agers is be­cause the gov­ern­ment has never ceased manag­ing elec­tions in Kenya. The real man­ager of the IEBC is the gov­ern­ment. The truth is that elec­toral com­mis­sions have never failed: The gov­ern­ment al­ways gets its way in ma­nip­u­lat­ing the com­mis­sion­ers in the man­age­ment of the elec­toral process. What guar­an­tees, for ex­am­ple, do we have that the gov­ern­ment’s con­trol won’t again man­i­fest it­self? None.

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