Monday, November 26, 2007
How I would rig the vote, were I a top Kibaki man!
Published on November 26, 2007, 12:00 am
By Dominic Odipo
When you travel around the country, you get a pretty good impression of how the people in the different towns and provinces are likely to vote in the coming presidential elections.
If you go to Nyeri you will notice that the people there are not likely to vote for the ODM presidential candidate, Mr Raila Odinga.
If you go to Kericho or Kapsabet, you will get the impression that the people there are not likely to vote for President Kibaki.
This feeling, this ‘message from the soil’, is very different from the message the Steadman Group is trying to convey through its latest opinion polls.
My take, which I believe many hard-nosed political cognoscenti share, is that, if free and fair elections were held tomorrow, Raila would get about 55 per cent of the vote, beating both President Kibaki and the ODM-Kenya presidential candidate, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka.
Yet there is a crucial difference between Raila being able to win and his moving into State House on December 29. And that difference can be reduced to just five words: The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK).
Make no mistake. This election could be decided by the ECK, not necessarily by the people. The Raila onslaught could be broken by the logistical mechanics that ECK puts in motion on election day.
Perhaps this point is best captured by turning it into a question: If I were a top official in the Kibaki Government determined to rig him back into office come what may, how would I proceed? I would move very deliberately but very ruthlessly along the following lines.
First, I would convince the President to appoint as many commissioners as possible to the ECK who are sympathetic to our cause and can do our bidding on or before election day.
I would then get these commissioners to appoint returning and presiding officers who, in turn, can do as we say.
Second, I would prevail upon the President to renew the term of the long-serving ECK Chairman, Mr Samuel Kivuitu, for both diplomatic and tactical reasons.
After all, a lone chairman would be virtually powerless against all the other commissioners who would be working for our side.
Third, I would prevail upon the chairman to put some of our most trusted commissioners in charge of the printing and packaging of the ballot papers. These commissioners would then be sent to Britain, or wherever the ballot papers were being printed, with one very clear instruction: Make sure that the ballot papers destined for Opposition strongholds like Rift Valley and Western provinces have as many errors on them as possible.
The idea here would be to have as many Opposition votes as possible declared spoilt.
Fourth, I would prevail upon the chairman to put one of the commissioners most sympathetic to our cause in charge of all the transport logistics of election day. This man or woman would be given the final say over how, when and where the ballot papers, election materials and personnel would be transported.
I would then instruct them to make sure that, on election day, everything goes real slow in the Opposition strongholds and real fast in Kibaki’s strongholds. Returning and presiding officers would be secretly instructed to ensure that no voting starts in the Opposition strongholds before 1pm on election day.
Fifth, I would secretly designate one of our most trusted commissioners as the commissioner for propaganda and confusion. His main task would be to ensure that there is as much confusion as possible in the Opposition zones on election day.
For example, the ballot papers for Belgut constituency would deliberately be flown to Mandera in the morning of election day. The returning officer in Mandera would then be instructed to ‘go slow’ while awaiting further instructions. The papers would finally be flown to Belgut at 2pm.
Sixth, I would ensure that all polling stations in the whole country were closed at 5pm, regardless of when voting started nor how many people were still queueing to vote. This instruction would be more strictly enforced in the Opposition areas.
Finally, I would get a friendly opinion polling group to keep spewing out figures indicating that the election was too close to call. That would create the appropriate pyschological atmosphere within which to operate.
In one word, this election is not yet in the bag for the Opposition. The latent power of incumbency and the totalitarian powers of a sympathetic ECK could yet do Raila in.
The writer is a lecturer and consultant in Nairobi