Monday, November 20, 2023

Insider's Insight: Kenya's Journey to Modernized Elections


Wafula Chebukati, the former Chairman of Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), recently gave an insightful speech at the 19th International Electoral Affairs Symposium and Awards in Lisbon, Portugal. In his address, he emphasized the transformative impact technology had in preserving the integrity of the historic 2022 Kenyan elections.

As explained by Chebukati, the elections were significant, not only in Kenya's history but also in demonstrating the potency of technology in supporting credible democratic processes. Amid immense challenges long associated with Kenya's electoral landscape, and with the specter of the annulled 2017 elections still looming, the country achieved a milestone: highly credible elections that were recognized both nationally and internationally.

The successful integration of technology played a critical role in this achievement. The IEBC harnessed biometric technology to enable poll workers to validate voter identities and to digitally capture tally reports. Digital copies of tally reports were automatically published online in real time. The prompt publication of tally reports on the night of the election boosted transparency.

Despite the ensuing defamation campaign post-results announcement, where certain factions attempted to discredit Chebukati, the IEBC, and the technology, the legitimacy of the results was upheld by the Supreme Court. Broadcast online, these hearings made it evident that the deployment of technology materially contributed to transparency and integrity in the 2022 Kenyan elections. "The transparency with which Form 34As were transmitted and the bullet-proof technology systems utilized resulted in no single point of failure," stated Chebukati.

This landmark voting event coordinated over 460,000 poll workers across 22,229 polling stations, serving 22 million citizens. The technological advancements adopted not only ensured a smoother voting process but also offered a robust defense against claims of irregularities.

Chebukati's address at the Lisbon Symposium serves as a beacon of promise for other countries grappling with similar challenges in their electoral systems.

The International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) is an organization dedicated to enhancing policymaking and governance by facilitating interaction between parliaments, governments, and societal stakeholders. The Symposium and Awards ceremony was held on November 13 – 16 and election specialists from the world over.