The head of Kenya’s election commission on Friday admitted the tallying of results from the presidential poll was moving too slowly, as national broadcasters abruptly stopped sharing provisional outcomes.
Tuesday’s election was largely peaceful but disputes over previous presidential votes have been followed by deadly violence, fuelling jitters as provisional results point to a tight race between frontrunners William Ruto and Raila Odinga.
After the Supreme Court annulled the 2017 presidential poll, citing irregularities and mismanagement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the watchdog is under pressure to deliver a clean vote and release the results by August 16.
But with the complex process of verifying and tallying votes now in its fourth day, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati accused political party agents of delaying the exercise by haranguing election workers with unnecessary questions.
“We have observed that we are not moving as fast as we should. This exercise needs to be concluded as soon as possible,” Chebukati said.
“The agents in this exercise cannot proceed in the manner in which we are proceeding as if we are doing a forensic audit.
“Please don’t interrogate the… officers and slow down the process. If we do that, we will not be able to finish this exercise,” he warned.
In a bid to be transparent, the IEBC has uploaded forms to its website showing the results from each polling station, enabling Kenyan television channels to work out their tallies.
But the broadcasters suddenly stopped their tallies on Thursday, with around a million votes left to go, and offered no explanation.
Chebukati has urged Kenyans not to worry about the different outcomes projected by various channels, saying the IEBC would release the results as soon as possible.
Social media is already swamped with disinformation about the results, with rights campaigners and civil society groups accusing both candidates’ camps of sharing misleading posts.
IEBC chief executive Marjan Hussein Marjan on Friday denied what he called “misinformation, disinformation” that the commission’s systems and its results portal had been compromised.
“We would like to assure the country that nothing like that has happened,” he told reporters. “We assure the whole country that our systems are actually secure… the mechanisms we have put in place are foolproof.”
– ‘A lot of anxiety’ –
But with the wait likely stretching into the weekend, some Kenyans said they were increasingly anxious to know who their next leader would be.
“We pray they announce, the earlier the better,” retired librarian Jael Akinyi told AFP on a busy street corner in Odinga’s bastion of Kisumu.
Christopher Mesa, a pastor at the Africa Gospel Church in the lakeside city, said there was “a lot of anxiety about the results” among his congregation, and the conflicting results on television only served to confuse people.
“By not showing the results, it calms the people. That was bringing emotions up and down,” he said.
“We would rather it takes time but it is clear. The delay is not a problem,” he told AFP.
International observers, including from the United States, the European Union and the African Union, have hailed the IEBC for improving its procedures compared to earlier polls.
But turnout was lower than seen in previous elections and some Kenyans said they were keen to move on and resume normal life.
“I don’t care (for) the ongoing counting for the presidential (election), it makes people anxious,” Peter Kamau, a 42-year-old taxi driver, told AFP.
“We want to go back to daily life.”
No presidential poll outcome has gone uncontested in Kenya since 2002 and the disputes have led to bloodshed in the past, either involving ethnic clashes or police violence.
Kenyans voted in six elections on Tuesday, choosing a new president as well as senators, governors, lawmakers, women representatives and some 1,500 county officials.