Lobby calls on IEBC, parties to promote tolerance, peaceful elections

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A delegation of election experts has called on electoral stakeholders such as IEBC, civil society and the media to accelerate voter education efforts.

They recommended that IEBC should develop a simple graphic depiction of the voting process to be posted on key media in order to educate voters and set expectations.

The delegation said that the people of Kenya would ultimately determine the credibility of the upcoming ballot vote.

This was in the spirit of supporting and strengthening democratic institutions and accountability in Kenya.

The International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) in a joint delegation conducted a pre-election assessment mission (PEAM) ahead of the August 9 polls.

These Institutes are nonpartisan, non-governmental, non-profit organisations that have collectively observed more than 200 elections in more than 50 countries over the past 30 years.

The delegation represents an important component of the NDI/IRI joint Kenya International Election Observation Mission and included regional and election experts from Africa and North America.

The joint delegation comprised former president of Nigeria His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan, Executive Director of the Election Resource Centre of Zimbabwe Ms Babra Bhebe-Dube, NDI board member and former U.S diplomat Mr Lionel C. Johnson, NDI Senior Advisor for Elections Ms Julia Brothers and IRI Africa Regional Director Gregory Kearns.

The assessment that was conducted from June 27 to July 1 was the second of two pre-election missions designed to assess the current political environment as well as the electoral preparations ahead of the August 9 polls.

According to them, the current campaign has seen coalitions rely more on ideologies and personalities in their political discourse.

However, ethnically-driven identity politics continue to be an important determinant of voter behaviour.

More than 20 parties including Raila Odinga’s ODM party and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee party have joined forces under the Azimio la Umoja banner.

This new alliance pits the outgoing president against Deputy President William Ruto whose UDA party formed a coalition, the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

According to the first pre-election assessment done in May, Kenyans have the potential to break the pattern of disputed elections and prevent related violence.

However, this will require concerted efforts not only by IEBC but equally by all political parties, security services, civil society, the media and faith-based organisations among others.

They recognised some positive developments initiated by these electoral stakeholders that are contributing to an enhanced voting environment.

According to a statement issued by the delegation, there are several significant opportunities that could still be improved ahead of the August 9 polls.

These include conducting additional results management systems tests and accelerating voter education efforts throughout the country with a focus on election day procedures and the immediate post-election process.

It also involves, prioritizing strategic and regular communications with the media and the public that includes the provision of clear, responsive and timely information regarding all aspects of the electoral process.

“Despite noticeable issues associated with the conduct of elections in the past, the political, civic actors and institutions in the country remain resilient and the electoral process continues to adapt and evolve from past challenges,” said former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Based on consultations, the delegation provided recommendations for the IEBC, police, candidates, political parties, civil society organizations, other government bodies as well as the media.

Their most prominent suggestions called for extensive voter education and public outreach focused on electoral procedures and in particular results transmission.

It also suggested tabulation and certification, concerted efforts to pre-empt and reduce related disinformation and violence against women online and a public commitment by party leaders and candidates to peaceful campaigns.

Other proposals included a countrywide load test of the entire results management system to garner an accurate estimate of how long the process will take, address any unexpected challenges and avoid surprises on election night.

“All stakeholders, especially political parties and the IEBC, must work together to promote tolerance, peaceful elections, and respect for historically marginalised groups including rejecting violence against women in elections,” said Babra Bhebe-Dube.

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