EU Observers: Kenya’s 2017 Election Process Undermined Democracy

NAIROBI The European Union's chief observer for Kenya's 2017 elections says the process was far from perfect, singling out, in particular, the country's politicians. The EU mission is calling for Kenya to undertake reforms that will strengthen democracy.

Speaking Tuesday at the European Parliament, the EU chief election observer in Kenya, Marietje Schaake, blamed politicians for problems with the country's 2017 election.

The Kenyan people, including five million young people able to vote for the first time, did not fully enjoy their democratic rights as legally foreseen for all Kenyans," said Schaake. "The electoral process was damaged by political leaders attacking independent institutions, and by a lack of dialogue between the opposing sides with escalating disputes and violence.

The EU mission chief said the process disappointed voters, leading to political confrontations, and the East African nation remains divided.

In less than three months in 2017, Kenya's electoral commission organized two presidential elections. The first poll in August was nullified by Kenya's supreme court after it found illegalities in the transmission of election results.

At least 15 million Kenyans voted in August, a huge turnout credited in part to technology, as many believed that biometric voter identification and electronic transmission of results would reduce electoral fraud.

But Schaake says technology did not help Kenya overcome its fears.

Some had hoped the use of advanced technology would increase trust, but technology cannot replace trust, and lack of testing for capacity and security led to concerns that certainly [must] be addressed in the future, said Schaake.

In the repeat poll in October, only about 7.6 million of 19.6 million registered voters turned out. President Uhuru Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote, after his main challenger Raila Odinga withdrew from the election.

With the fear of voter apathy in the future, Schaake says Kenya needs urgent reforms.

I urge Kenyan leaders, as well as Kenya's international partners, to prioritize addressing structural issues as well as strengthening principles such as stronger rule of law, separation of powers, respect for independence institutions, and of course the rights and freedom of the people of Kenya, said Schaake.

The EU mission suggested strengthening Kenya's independent institutions, improving the technology used in the elections and also improving the election results mechanism.

In Kenya, the call for leaders to work together and form an inclusive government has been growing, after Odinga and his running mate vowed to swear themselves in as president and deputy president before the end of January.

Source: Voice of America

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