The electoral agency yesterday bowed to pressure over its plan to use the electronic voter register as the sole document of identifying voters in the August 9 elections.
It agreed to use the manual register, but only as a last resort in case of a technology breakdown.
The decision of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ends weeks of tussling pitting the commission against leading presidential candidates Raila Odinga of Azimio and William Ruto of UDA .
During a consultative meeting with the four presidential candidates—Mr Odinga, Dr Ruto, Roots Party candidate George Wajackoyah and his Agano counterpart David Mwaure Waihiga—IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati assured that the issue of the register would be addressed amicably.
“The issue of the register will be addressed and it will be shared with the stakeholders and we shall break them down up to each polling station,” Mr Chebukati said at the meeting held at the Windsor Hotel in Kiambu County.
“The electronic register will be the primary document that we shall use but we are also saying that we shall provide the physical register which would be used as a last resort,” IEBC chief executive Hussein Marjan said.
While giving his submissions at the meeting yesterday, the DP said that whereas his Kenya Kwanza Alliance also roots for the provision of the manual register to complement the electronic one, his camp would not have an issue with the electronic document if the IEBC puts in place sufficient safeguards.
“There have been notions that are not correct that Kenya Kwanza wants a manual register. If you give us sufficient safeguards that an electronic register will function without any chance of failing, then we’re good to go,” he said.
But speaking after stepping out of the meeting earlier, Mr Odinga insisted that his camp would not accept anything less than the use of manual register as a “backup to the electronic one.”
“What we’re trying to ask is that, yes we shall do the electronic identification through the biometrics, but there should also be that manual register so that we can also counter-check in order to know how many people voted in which particular polling station. That’s why we’re insisting on the manual register to be used as a backup and it’s either that or never. We will not accept anything different from that,” Mr Odinga said.
Need for backup register
The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya boss, who was accompanied by his running mate Martha Karua said there was need for a backup register to complement the electronic one should the systems fail.
His chief agents Saitabao Kanchory, Prof Isaiah Kindiki, Caroline Karugu, lead lawyer Paul Mwangi, Prof Makau Mutua and an ICT expert George Njoroge were among the officers who were with him.
Dr Ruto had his campaign boss Josephat Nanok, UDA secretary-general Veronica Maina and chief agent Kithure Kindiki, among others.
Mr Mwangi argued that the earlier hard stance by IEBC to allow the availability of the manual register was against the Elections Act.
He said that the law requires the commission to have the manual voter register as a secondary voter identification backup in the event that the electronic system fails.
He said: “The insistence is not that you don’t use technology. Use all the systems that have been described, but the law requires you to have that system in place whether it will be used or not.”
Mr Marjan took the presidential candidates through the voter identification process and the security measures in place to ensure the system is secure and not prone to any form of abuse or infiltration.
IEBC commissioner Abdi Guliye said the GPS coordinates of all the polling stations and centres will be shared with political parties to ensure transparency.
“We will deploy satellite modems to ensure that we have connectivity in polling stations that don’t have 3G connectivity,” he said.
Mr Odinga’s camp has also raised concerns over “ethnic imbalance” in the deployment of returning officers, noting that at least 10 County Returning Officers, out of the 47, hail from one ethnic community, while 100 of them at the constituency level also originate from the same ethnic group.
Prof Mutua said the constitution dictates the principal of inclusivity in public job opportunities.
The DP, however, stated that they have no problem with any Kenyan serving in any capacity so long as they have been recruited competitively and have the requisite skills and competences.
“If our competitors have a problem with certain Kenyans who come from certain communities, you can work out with them. We’ve no problem if they’re replaced. We want every Kenyan to be given a chance and the measure should not be ethnicity but competence,” he said.