HomeNewsKenya scraps electronic registration plan for vote next year

Kenya scraps electronic registration plan for vote next year

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NAIROBI – Kenya’s electoral commission has abandoned plans to introduce an electronic register of voters after the tendering process descended into acrimony, stirring fears among members of parliament that an election next year will be marred by fraud.

Next March’s general election will be the first since a disputed poll in 2007 that triggered a politically-fuelled ethnic slaughter in which more than 1,200 people were killed.

It will be closely watched because tensions around the vote could hit investment, trade and transport in the east African economic powerhouse’s land-locked neighbours, who rely on Mombasa port for imports of food, consumer goods and fuel.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had planned to acquire biometric voter registration technology to replace the current system which is manual – it was discredited in 2007 after ballot boxes were found to contain the votes of people who had not registered or were dead.

But the IEBC said it had abandoned the idea to bring in an electronic register – which would be harder to rig – after the tendering process had become “murky”. Rights groups said vested interests had sparked the infighting.

Kenneth Marende, the speaker of parliament, ordered two parliamentary committees to investigate the controversy.

“I’m not convinced that dead voters will not vote,” Amina Abdallah, a member of one of the committees said during a public hearing.

The IEBC had initially refused to award the contract to the lowest bidder, and awarded the tender to the second-lowest bidder instead. But that triggered a public row and it then decided to scrap the process altogether.

Ahmed Isaack Hassan, head of the IEBC, said his team would now try to ensure that the current system was improved instead.

The IEBC had planed to register 18 million voters electronically, but will now add to its existing manual register which has about 12.4 million voters on it.

Some politicians and analysts have warned that any delay in deciding which voter registration will be used could see the elections, which are set for March 4, 2013, postponed.

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