'Rejected' votes will be taken into account in Kenyan election
A Kenya Wildlife Service member guards unopened ballot boxes in Nairobi. Photograph: Noor Khamis
In a twist reminiscent of the 2004 US presidential election, when the “hanging chad” – a reference to indecipherable vote intentions – played a central role in determining who went to the White House, rejected ballots that so far comprise more than 6 per cent of votes counted could decide whether there is an outright winner or a run-off.
Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, was last night leading partial, provisional results in the elections, which are taking place in the shadow of a poll five years ago, when disputed results and allegations of vote-rigging triggered ethnic killings.
Raila Odinga, prime minister, was neck-and-neck with Mr Kenyatta in opinion polls ahead of the vote, but stood at 42 per cent with just over 42 per cent of votes counted.
Votes classed as “rejected”, which include both spoilt ballots and ballots placed in the wrong box, have so far not been factored into the calculation of running percentages.
Elog, Kenya’s national election observers, said rejected votes could surpass half a million as the count progressed.
But Issack Hassan, chairman of the IEBC, the country’s independent electoral body, said that rejected votes would count towards the final tally and that percentages would have to be updated to reflect this.
Share of vote
If the rejected ballots were to be added to the total votes cast, it would reduce each candidate’s share of the vote. Mr Kenyatta’s percentage yesterday evening, for example, would decline to 50.2 per cent from 53.5 per cent if rejected ballots were included in the total number of votes counted.
A candidate must secure an absolute majority to win the first round, replacing past rules that required only a relative majority for victory.
Lawyers representing the candidates and the IEBC met separately in an attempt to interpret a clause in the 2010 constitution that says “votes cast” rather than valid votes should count. “We have put a team of lawyers together to discuss that issue,” said the IEBC following Mr Hassan’s comments.
Later in the day, Mr Hassan confirmed that the count would be updated to include the rejected ballots.
“According to the constitution, the text is very clear: it’s not the valid votes cast but the votes cast, so therefore we have to include them in our calculations,” said Salim Lone, spokesman for Mr Odinga.
On current patterns, including rejected votes would favour Mr Odinga.
“Given that we expect Odinga to do well with the remaining votes, this would almost certainly guarantee a run-off,” said Nic Cheeseman, lecturer in African politics at Oxford University, referring to results expected from Mr Odinga’s strongholds that had yet to be counted.
Mr Kenyatta’s team said its party chairman met Mr Hassan last night to discuss the issue and was consulting lawyers.
Voters on Monday went to the polls to elect six separate posts – from president to parliamentarian – in the country’s most complicated elections in its history, casting six ballots into six separate pale pastel-coloured boxes that some found hard to differentiate between in gloomy polling stations.
“Hardly any civic education happened,” said Kennedy Masime of Elog, who argued that according to the constitution, all votes, whether rejected or not, should be included in the final vote tally. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013)