Kenya concluded its final mass voter registration (MVR) drive in a politically charged environment,
amid shaky public confidence.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had authorized a series of controversial amendments to the electoral law
just one week before the MVR, which allowed for manual registration and results transmission. The
reintroduction of manual systems immediately sparked outrage and suspicion, given the history of
violence around electoral manipulation.
Specifically, the new regulations allow the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)
to use “a complementary mechanism for identification of voters and transmission of elections
results” in case the electronic systems fail. The opposition, however, insists use of manual
systems will open the door to rigging. The lead up to the reforms was marked by dramatic scenes in
parliament, including fistfights between MPs and a walk out by the opposition.
Public trust remained precarious despite a brand new set of IEBC Commissioners, appointed after
opposition-led protests against the former commissioners, who had been plagued by allegations of
corruption and partisan favoritism. The IEBC has notably failed to reach its targets. In addition
to the legal and political battles, Kenya has also been hit by an upsurge of insecurity and
banditry, including sub-national inter-ethnic violence around border areas.
ElectionWatch #3 presents field observations and photo evidence from the countrywide mass voter
registration drive, and provides an overall analysis of voter registration in Kenya.
* Politicians and their agents are behaving like ethnic warlords, using coercive tactics to secure
maximum votes. This includes using criminal gangs to restrict access to public places and services
for citizens who cannot produce a voter registration card.
* Registration notebooks have appeared in some registration centers, alongside Biometric Voter
Registration (BVR), and are being used without apparent uniformity.
* Thousands of people have discovered they share the same registration numbers; yet neither the
IEBC nor the National Registration of Persons have succeeded in reassuring the public this can be
properly remedied in a manner that will not affect the integrity of the election.
* Voter registration for the August 2017 election has already been marked by technological
errors and failures.