The dispute in Kenya over the electoral laws between the ruling Jubilee coalition and the opposition has set the stage for what analysts say will be an acrimonious campaign and electioneering period.
After the failure by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) to block amendments to the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2016, there are indications that the opposition will reactivate its earlier call for street protests.
The Kenyan shilling has dipped to a 15-month low, exchanging at 103 to the US dollar. Analysts fear that increased tension could see the shilling slide further.
Already, neighbouring countries Rwanda and Uganda are said to be looking to use the alternative route to the sea through the Dar es Salaam port for fear of violence.
The Senate voted on Thursday voted 24-19 to uphold the amendments made by the National Assembly in December, to include a manual backup to the electronic voting system, which the opposition has said could pave the way for rigging.
In a statement on Friday, the Cord leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Cyrus Jirongo, said the amendments are simply meant to make it easy for underage and dead voters to cast their votes in addition to stuffing of ballot boxes in the August 8 election.
The coalition has invited all its elected leaders to the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on January 11 to deliberate on the way forward, which may include street protests.
The Act had provided that; “There is established an integrated electronic electoral system that enables biometric voter registration, electronic voter identification and electronic transmission of results,” but Jubilee legislators pushed for amendments to allow the use of manual procedures should the technology fail.
Political analysts The EastAfrican spoke to agree that the problem is not about digital and manual voting, but the mistrust that has crept in since the disputed 2007 elections.
Winnie Mutula, director of the Development Studies Department at the University of Nairobi, said, “We live in a society where people do not have integrity and trust. Can the public believe that since there are new commissioners of the electoral body, things are going to change?”
There have been concerns about the ability of the new Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to meet the timelines for election preparations.
Paranoia of politicians
Dr Amukowa Anangwe, a former MP and a political science lecturer at the University of Dodoma, who has consulted on best election practices in 21 African countries, blames the political intrigues on the “paranoia of politicians.”
“The stakes are high and the new IEBC commissioners are likely to be caught in the cross-fire, where their credibility will be tested,” said Dr Anangwe.
Already, an audit of the voter register by audit firm KPMG has been stopped by the High Court. The scrutiny of the register, which has 15.85 million voters, was supposed to be finalised on January 15.
The IEBC has been forced to reschedule a number of its timelines because of time constraints and financing. For instance, the electoral body was supposed to conduct the last voter registration beginning December, but this has been pushed to mid-February.