Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kenya News Bulletin: Kibaki and Raila in Face to Face Meeting; ECK Denies Rigging; From Nairobi to New Hampshire

Kibaki and Raila in face to face meeting

Story by NATION Reporter
Publication Date: 1/24/2008

President Kibaki and the Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga have met for the first time since the disputed General Election, and shaken hands before a battery of journalists.

The two first held a brief meeting with chief mediator Kofi Annan before emerging to make brief remarks and posed for pictures while shaking hands.

Mr Odinga said: “We are ready to go the extra mile. These are the first vital steps to resolving the electoral dispute. I ask you to be patient and uphold peace in the spirit of brotherhood.”

He added “ I pledge to all Kenyans that my team and I will spare no effort to resolve this crisis.”

When his turn came, President Kibaki said: “We remain committed to dialogue. All Kenyans should remain calm and shun violence as we endeavour to find solutions.”

The President added “I will personally lead the country in promoting unity, tolerance, peace and harmony.”

The president also said the government welcomed the eminent African prominent persons to facilitate dialogue within Kenya’s constitutional and legal framework.

Mr Odinga urged his supporters to remain calm and shun violence as they sought to find solutions.

But the fact that the two protagonists were still holding their conflicting positions was let through when Mr Odinga avoided referring to Kibaki as ‘President’, and on the other hand President Kibaki referred to himself “having duly won the elections”.

The two and their teams then entered the Harambee House offices for detailed talks.

No agenda has been given for the talks brokered by a team of international mediators including Mr Annan, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Mozambique’s Graca Machel.

Mr Odinga is accompanied by one of his party’s top officials, Mr William Ruto.

President Kibaki is with five members of his Cabinet, including Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Ministers George Saitoti (Security), Martha Karua (Justice), Samuel Poghisio (Information) and Ali Mwakwere (Transport) among a few Government officials.

The joint meeting comes after Mr Annan’s team met President Kibaki at State House earlier today and the ODM side Wednesday evening.

Mr Annan described the meeting as “a very encouraging development” and said:"I think we began to take the first steps towards a peaceful solution of the problem and you can see the two leaders are here to underline their engagement to dialogue and to work together for a just and sustainable peace."

Previous mediation efforts have failed to yield a breakthrough.

Now ECK denies rigging poll in favour of Kibaki

Publication Date: 1/24/2008
Kenya Daily Nation

Electoral Commission of Kenya Wednesday defended itself against accusations of rigging the December 27 presidential election.

In a statement delivered to newsrooms by ECK secretary J. Tsola, the elections body denied having rigged the elections and responded to all allegations made by the Orange Democratic Movement in advertisements that appeared in Sunday newspapers. ECK said it wanted to set the record straight in the public interest.

In the advert, ODM said that even the chairman of the ECK Samuel Kivuitu was on record saying that he is not sure who won the elections in which President Kibaki was declared the winner.

In response, the statement said the question of whether President Kibaki won the elections fairly is a matter of interpretation and not an issue within the ECK mandate to determine.

According to the statement the question is an allegation which has been widely circulated in local and international media.

“The actual question posed to the chairman of the ECK by the media was; do you believe that Hon Mwai Kibaki fairly won the election?”

And his response as stated in the statement is: “I don’t know. That is until I see the original records, which I can’t for now unless the court authorises. What we have are records of results from field officers.”

The ECK accused the media of deliberately distorting the question as put to Mr Kivuitu by removing the word ‘‘fairly’’ to create the impression that the electoral body is uncertain as to who won the elections.

And the statement continues to say: “The ECK determines the winner of the presidential election on the basis of the final vote tally. In this regard, Mr Mwai Kibaki was pronounced the winner having garnered the highest number of votes - 4,584,721 against Raila Odinga’s 4,352,993.”

ODM had made 15 allegations against the ECK to explain why they rejected the results, which sparked protests in the country immediately they were announced.

More than 500 killed

The protests have claimed lives of more than 500 people and leaving more than 250,000 displaced.

Claims by ODM that ECK officers at KICC where votes cast in the whole country were being tallied, altered Forms 16A are untrue, the statement says.

It explains that the form is supposed to be signed at the polling station to confirm the results. And it is signed by the presiding officer and the agents of political parties present.

“The returning officer then prepares Form 16, which is a summary of the results contained in all the Forms 16A from all polling stations in a constituency,” the statement says.

ODM had given an example of several constituencies, including Juja, where Forms 16A were allegedly altered. According to ODM, President Kibaki had only 48,293 votes, which were announced at the constituency level while at KICC it was announced that he got 100,390 votes.

The constituency, the ECK said, has 163,657 registered voters and there are 231 polling stations.

“As at 1pm on December 28, the returning officer for Juja had tallied votes from 11 polling stations. By then President Kibaki had 48,293 votes as clearly indicated in the advert,”

ECK says claims that presiding officers in 42 constituencies refused to make Forms 16A available for signatures by agents are untrue.

“This was meant to enable fictitious results in favour of the President to be completed at KICC,” the ODM had said in their advert.

In response the ECK says: “It was reported that the party agents in some ODM and PNU strongholds were frustrated from carrying out their roles. The ECK has, however not received any specific case of a presiding officer refusing any party agents to sign Forms 16A.”

Kenya Daily Nation

WHAT OTHERS SAY: When a 'stolen' election is not a stolen election

Publication Date: 1/24/2008

Perhaps Kenya is too pre-occupied with the violence that has rocked the country after the disputed December 27 election, not too many people caught the news that Senator Hillary Clinton might have beaten Senator Barack Obama in the Democratic Party primaries in New Hampshire two weeks ago through a rigged vote.

Opinion polls taken the day before the Tuesday vote showed Obama up by 10 to 15 points over Clinton. Exit polls also showed Obama to be winning the New Hampshire primary. However when the votes were counted, Clinton ended up beating Obama 39.4 per cent to 36.8 per cent.

As the punchy blog site Albany’s Insanity puts it, the Clinton win shocked polling firms and surprised experts, who were left stumbling for explanations to the Hillary comeback.

There were anomalies in the numbers that got some people suspecting something sinister: vote fraud.

IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, 81 PER CENT of the voting was done in towns and cities that had purchased optical scan machines from the Diebold Election Systems.

The other 19 per cent of voting was done in towns that had opted to use hand-counted paper ballots instead.

The machine tally was Clinton 39.6 per cent, Obama 36.3 per cent - fairly close to the final outcome. But the hand-counted ballot count was significantly different: Clinton 34.9 per cent, Obama 38.6 per cent. “Could something have happened in those machines to shift some votes away from Obama, or some of the other candidates in the race, and over to the Clinton total?” asks Albany’s Insanity.

The blog says if all the votes cast had split the way the hand counts split, Obama would have won New Hampshire by over 10,000 votes, instead of losing to Clinton by about 5,500 votes.

Now, thanks to a minor candidate, Dennis Kucinich, we are likely to find out. Kucinich has filed a request to order a manual recount of the machine ballots cast in the state.

One of my favourite websites, Slate, had quite an interesting take on the Kenyan elections.

What is Slate’s view of what happened? It was the first news site to report an exit poll by the Nairobi office of The International Republican Institute (IRI), a democracy-fostering nonprofit funded by the US government—commissioned on Election Day that showed Raila Odinga leading President Mwai Kibaki by 8 per cent. However, the IRI didn’t release the results, although it issued a statement criticising the vote counting.

But Slate, argues, these matters are never straightforward.

“While there have been calls for recounts, divining the true winner with both sides and many observer organisations condemning improprieties such as doctored vote tallies will be expensive, complicated, and not guaranteed to succeed”, Slate says.

“The...mismanagement of the election doesn’t rule out the possibility that (Kibaki), in fact, won. Even if (he) didn’t, the margin may have been too small to determine”.

The example of Florida in the 2000 US Elections will serve us well here. As reported in a nifty account in Wikipedia, the race between George Bush and Al Gore had come down to Florida. Whoever won the State, would win the presidency. Based on exit polls, some television news networks declared that Gore had carried Florida’s 25 electoral votes. Some hours later, with 85 per cent of the votes counted in Florida and Bush leading Gore by more than 100,000 votes, the networks declared that Bush had carried Florida, and had been elected President.

However, most of the remaining votes to be counted in Florida were located in three heavily Democratic counties, and as their votes were reported, Gore began to gain on Bush. After all votes were counted, Gore had narrowed Bush’s margin to just over 2,000 votes, and the networks retracted their predictions that Bush had won Florida and the Presidency.

Gore, who had privately conceded the election to Bush, now withdrew his concession and announced that he would wait for a recount in Florida. After the first recount, by November 8, Bush’s margin in Florida had dwindled to about 500 votes, narrow enough to trigger a mandatory recount in that state.

THIS SET INTO MOTION A SERIES OF recounts, questions about portions of the Florida vote, and finally lawsuits.

Eventually, the Florida Supreme Court brought the matter to end, and the vote was certified by Katherine Harris, the Republican Secretary of State, who had been the Florida co-chair of Bush’s campaign. Because Bush’s younger brother, Jeb Bush, was governor of Florida, there were allegations that Harris and Bush had somehow manipulated the election to favour the governor’s brother. Bush’s margin of victory in Florida was officially placed at 537 votes (out of more than 5.8 million cast), the closest presidential election in the history of the state.

In the aftermath of the election, a couple of independent recounts were conducted.

In one, The Media Consortium hired the National Opinion Research Centre to examine 175,010 ballots that were never counted in Florida. Their results showed that the winning candidate varied based on the method used to include or interpret ballots. Ironically enough, under the recount rules initially requested by Gore, Bush would have won, and under the rules requested by Bush, Gore would have won.

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