Kenya’s election body in a storm over ballot paper deal

The Greek company awarded the contract to print ballot papers for the August 9 Kenyan elections started delivering the same to Nairobi on Thursday, even as presidential candidate Raila Odinga sought to link its officials to the rival coalition led by Deputy President William Ruto.

Mr Odinga’s coalition — Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition — has sensationally alleged a plot involving officials of Inform Lykos (Hellas) SA Holding and the electoral commission to rig the August 9 presidential vote in favour of his opponent through printing of excess ballot papers to be stuffed at various polling stations.

His allies early in the week leaked letters exchanged between Senator Moses Wetang’ula, a senior member of the Deputy President’s campaign team, and the Greek embassy in Nairobi requesting a travel visa for an associate for a business tour months before the ballot printing contract was awarded. The Odinga campaign has also alleged of private meetings having taken place between Mr Wetang’ula and Wafula Chebukati, the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Chebukati have denied involvement in rigging the ballot printing tender in favour of the Greek firm or a ballot stuffing plot.

Mr Chebukati, who is set to preside over a second election at the helm of the Electoral Commission, warned politicians against profiling election Commission officials and attacking the institution’s credibility with barely a month to the polls.

Both Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Chebukati hail from Bungoma County in western Kenya.

The current standoff mirrors the bitter exchanges around preparations for the last election in 2017 when Mr Odinga also claimed the Dubai ballot printer, Al Ghurair, had links with the ruling Jubilee Party’s leadership.

The electoral body has been desperate to restore the public’s confidence it lost after the Supreme Court nullified the results of the 2017 presidential election.

The justices reserved their harshest criticism for the IEBC, citing its bungling of the results transmission and vote tallying.

The IEBC is also no stranger to procurement scandals, with internal fights over contracts believed to have forced its former chief executive and three commissioners to quit in 2018.

Mr Chebukati is only one of the three survivors from the team that presided over the 2017 election after another Commissioner fled to the US over death threats days to the repeat presidential election held on October 26, 2017. The recruitment of four new Commissioners in September last year brought back a semblance of order at the IEBC, but it was not enough to dispel suspicions.

In addition to questioning the latest ballot printing contract, Mr Odinga has in recent weeks escalated his demand that the IEBC provides a manual register of voters at polling stations for back-up voter identification in case of biometrics kit failures.

The electoral body initially said it would only use electronic voter identification, but has recently appeared to soften its stand.


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