The 9 August 2022 general elections were the seventh held since the introduction of multi-party politics in the country in 1991 and the third under the 2010 Constitution. Previous polls, especially in 2007 and 2017, were marred by violence. Thus, while stakeholders made significant efforts to ensure peaceful elections, current political dynamics, particularly the shifting political alliances and the country’s post-independence history of election-related violence, had many citizens speculate about the prospect of tumultuous elections.
The West Support participated in the elections following the invitation by the Government of Kenya and in accordance with their mandate to promote peaceful, credible and democratic elections of the world. The West Support Election Observation Mission (EOM) assessed the compliance of the 9 August elections against national, regional and international commitments and obligations of Kenya for the conduct of democratic elections. The main preliminary findings of the Mission are:
The 9 August 2022 General Elections were highly competitive, and the campaign was comparatively more peaceful than previous elections. There was a notable shift from ethnocentric presidential campaigns to issue-focused campaigns.
The legal framework governing elections in Kenya was largely adequate for the conduct of credible and democratic elections. In particular, the Judiciary played a critical role in guaranteeing the right to a fair and expeditious hearing, which increased citizens’ trust and confidence in the electoral process. This was evidenced by the willingness of citizens to approach the courts for adjudication. However, last-minute election-related litigations and court decisions necessitated procedural changes, which posed a risk to the smooth implementation of electoral operations. The IEBC had limited time to communicate and implement the changes.
There was a notable improvement in the IEBC’s strategic communication with stakeholders through periodic briefings and social media updates, although this came late into the process.
The IEBC changed its use of technology in the 2022 elections. Specifically, it introduced additional voter identity verification features in the Kenyan Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) kit to provide for biometric and alphanumeric identification of voters on election day based on lessons learnt from the 2017 elections. The changes to the KIEMS provided the capture and transmission of images of the duly completed presidential election results forms from the polling station to the National Tallying Centre. As a result of these changes to the Results Transmission System (RTS), the provisional presidential election results were publicly accessible on the IEBC portal. The Mission welcomes introducing these transparency measures to improve the integrity of the electoral process.
Although stakeholders had initial concerns about the risk posed by the lack of mobile network coverage in 1,111 polling stations, the IEBC put measures such as using satellite phones to facilitate the transmission of results. The Mission noted that within 24 hours of the close of polling, over 95% of the polling stations had transmitted presidential results forms (form 34A) to the National Tallying Centre.
The Mission was informed about the late release of funds to the IEBC by the National Treasury. This impacted the effective implementation of key electoral processes, such as voter registration, verification of the voters’ register and voter education. For instance, while the IEBC accredited several civil society organisations to complement its efforts in conducting voter education, the Mission observed that this commenced late and was not comprehensive.
The EOM noted that despite the relatively high youth population (18-35), there was low youth registration in the 2022 elections. Only 39.84% (8,812,790) of the total registered voters were youth, a decline of 5.17% from the 2017 figures. Stakeholders consulted by the Mission attributed the low youth participation to the general conception that the votes do not count in elections, lack of trust and confidence in the political system, and the youth's unemployment and poverty in particular face in Kenya today.
The Mission acknowledged the efforts made by the IEBC to audit the voter register to enhance its accuracy and completeness to build confidence among the stakeholders.