Carter Center says Kenya polls were a setback for democracy

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s 2017 elections were a setback to this East African country’s democratic development, the Carter Center has said.

In its final report on the elections the U.S.-based center said the process of tallying final results suffered from delays and a lack of transparency.

“Kenya’s 2017 general electoral process was marred by incidents of unrest and violence throughout the extended electoral period, and by harsh attacks by top political leaders on electoral and judicial authorities that seriously undermined the independence of the country’s democratic institutions and the rule of law,” it said in a report released late Wednesday.

The group said the electoral commission hastily declared the final presidential election results on Aug. 11, just three days after voting day, based on the results from each constituency, and prior to the receipt of all results from each polling station.

The Carter Center said election authorities failed to ensure that parties had timely access to official results from each polling station in the days following the announcement of official results, which made it impossible for parties and observers to fully verify and cross-check the results against their internal data in time to include any key evidence in court petitions.

At least 92 people died in clashes between opposition supporters and police over the declaration that President Uhuru Kenyatta had won the August election and during protests to push for electoral reforms ahead of the repeat elections.

The Carter Center and other international observers were criticized for praising the polls in their initial reports.

European Union observers said in January that a lack of government cooperation meant they were unable to travel to the East African nation to present their final report on the vote. Kenya’s embassy in Brussels dismissed the E.U. explanation as “dishonest.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner of the August 8 election, but the Supreme Court nullified the results citing irregularities and illegalities and ordered a fresh election. Those new elections were held on Oct 26 but opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted saying there were not adequate electoral reforms to ensure a fair poll. Kenyatta was re-elected but Odinga said he lacks legitimacy due to the low voter turnout in the repeat poll.

Odinga still challenges Kenyatta’s legitimacy as president. He staged a protest that was a mock inauguration where he had himself declared the “people’s president.” That event prompted the government to restrict the media and to arrest some opposition legislators.

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