The judiciary and electoral commission say they are prepared for the 4 March vote and will not repeat the mistakes of the contested December 2007 polls. What happens in Kenya’s 4 March election stretches far beyond the fortunes of the rival parties to the fate of the new institutions and political order established during the last four years. “The judiciary – not just the Supreme Court – faces a very, very serious test in these elections,” the chief justice Willy Mutunga tells The Africa Report. “Because in 2007 we were rejected, we were seen to be partisan. We’ve been building confidence in the institutions, the entire judiciary.” Mutunga explains that there are clear legal rules that will have to be followed on any of the electoral disputes. One of the rival presidential candidates, Raila Odinga, has already said that he regards the reformed judiciary as reliably impartial. In the 2007 elections Odinga told his party not to bother contesting the result because of the pervasive political bias of the judiciary. On the coming elections, Mutunga takes a fairly apocalyptic view: “We all realise that if our judiciary is rejected yet again then the institution will never survive.” But he is optimistic that the political reforms and the new constitution have changed the climate.
… James Oswago, the IEBC chief executive, says it is absolutely committed to transparency: “In fact, I am not aware of any public procurement officer who has referred a controversial process to the government for arbitration. I did. You have not heard anybody going to court for corruption linked to this process.”
Unlike the old Electoral Commission of Kenya, whose top officials were in the president’s gift, the IEBC has nine one-term commissioners including Oswago, who acts as secretary to the board. Each commissioner was selected after consultations between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, the two main rivals in the 2007 election, and then vetted by parliament.
“We have in place structures that invalidate a discretionary announcement – a rigged vote. You can accuse the commission of inefficiency or of lateness and so on, but not of rigging,” Oswago says confidently.
But Paul Muite, a lawyer who is contesting the presidency himself, does not share such certainty: “The IEBC is not inspiring confidence. I am not sure that they have the capacity or political will to conduct credible elections. “There are integrity questions regarding some commissioners […] the composition of the commissioners was motivated not by merit but by the coalition government’s need for ethnic and regional balance.”