Kenya Supreme Court: Election was not perfect

Posted at: 04/16/2013 9:05 AM
By TOM ODULA

(AP) NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya’s Supreme Court on Tuesday said the execution of the nation’s March presidential election wasn’t perfect but that petitions to overturn the result did not prove President Uhuru Kenyatta was illegally elected.

The court had announced its unanimous ruling upholding Kenyatta’s election in late March but on Tuesday released its 113-page written decision. The ruling said that petitions by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and civil rights activist Gladwell Otieno do not disclose "any profound irregularity in the management of the electoral process."

Kenyatta beat seven other presidential candidates with 50.07 percent of the vote. That slim margin over the needed 50 percent was challenged by Odinga _ who got 43 percent _ and civil society groups that complained of anomalies in the voting process.

No major anomalies were found between the total number of registered voters and the total tally in the declaration of presidential election results, the court said.

"Although, as we find, there were many irregularities in the data and information-capture during the registration process they were not so substantial as to affect the credibility of the electoral process," the ruling said.

Kenya held a largely peaceful election process, avoiding a repeat of the chaos that rocked the country following the flawed 2007 presidential election, when more than 1,000 people died in violent attacks.

But the March 4 election did not go smoothly. An electronic voter ID system intended to prevent fraud failed for reasons yet to be explained by the electoral commission. Vote officials instead used manual voter rolls.

After the polls closed, results were to be sent electronically to Nairobi, where officials would quickly tabulate a preliminary vote count in order to maximize transparency in light of the rigging allegations that dogged the 2007 vote. But that system failed, too. Election officials have indicated that computer servers overloaded but haven’t fully explained the problem.

Odinga’s lawyers had argued that the switch from electronic voter identification to manual voter roll was stage-managed to allow inflation of Kenyatta’s votes to take him past the 50 percent threshold. The Supreme Court said Kenya’s electoral commission had no choice but to turn to the manual registers, though it had major weaknesses.

The court recommended an investigation into the acquisition of the computer systems that failed during the voting process. The court said there was questionable conduct by members of the electoral commission during the acquisition of the systems, and that prosecution of the suspects could be in order.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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