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Cablegate: Eck Expresses Some Concerns As the Referendum

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (U) SUMMARY: The Electoral Commission of Kenya, charged
conducting the November 21 national referendum on the
proposed new constitution, is making ready for polling day,
including adopting new technology which will permit the ECK
to broadcast voting results near simultaneously. While
disappointed at low voter enthusiasm and lackluster
participation of civil society organizations, the ECK is
grateful for the offer of international missions to serve
as observers on the referendum. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On October 27, poloff spoke with Electoral Commission
Kenya (ECK) Pubic Relations manager Mani Lemayian to
discuss the preparations for the up-coming November 21
national referendum on the proposed new constitution. He
explained that logistically everything is proceeding
smoothly. However, politically there is room for
improvement, beginning with the limited control the ECK has
been able to exert over the referendum campaigns and the
use of government resources by either side. Ref A.

Slow Progress on Constituency Agents

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3. (U) As required, the 2 national-level referendum
which will coordinate the campaigns for both sides in the
debate, have completed their registration with the ECK.
Constituency-level committees are currently in the process
of registration, but Lemayian indicated that this process
was not moving forward as quickly as they had
hoped. The respective campaign secretariats are slow to
provide the ECK with its constituency agents, those who
will be observing the voting in polling stations across
constituencies, which Lemayian attributed to a general lack
of organization at the secretariats. The registration of
constituency agents is extremely important as they are the
ones responsible to the ECK for any violations of the
electoral code of conduct in their constituencies and are
also the most likely to cry foul if some procedural
irregularity prevents them from accessing polling stations
on polling day.

"Instant" Results May One Up the Media

4. (U) According Lemayian, the ECK is currently deliberating
proposal which would allow polling results to be conveyed
from the individual polling stations to the ECK via mobile
phones, allowing the ECK to release "near simultaneous"
provisional results to the nation. This method would allow
the ECK to preempt the media releasing unofficial results
which may create conflict if various media houses reach
different conclusions or are perceived to be biased towards
one side in the referendum debate. The ECK plans to
concentrate media representatives and other interested
observers in a specially created media center where the ECK
would release the provisional results. Lemayian said that
the ECK is interested in adopting the communication
protocol which would allow the early release of provisional
results, however the amount of resources required to
increase the technological capacity to achieve this may
prove prohibitive.

Lackluster Enthusiasm for the Referendum

5. (U) Lemayian lamented the thus-far lack of interest
by domestic organizations to serve as observers of the
referendum. He noted that during the 2002 elections,
40,000 Kenyans served as observers. To date the ECK has
received very few inquiries (compared to expectations) from
potential domestic observers. Of those who have expressed
interest, many are laboring under the mistaken belief that
they will receive financial remuneration for their efforts.
He accredited the lackluster interest of domestic
organizations to both a lack of funding and a lack of
strong civil society organizations engaged on the issue.
(Note: In the 2002 elections, the international community
provided funding to domestic organizations to observe the
elections. Regarding this referendum, international
missions have been reluctant to support civil society
organizations to serve as observes because many of these
organizations have been very active in the referendum
debate, calling into question their impartially. End Note.)
He expressed his appreciation of the international
community's interest in observing, but expressed some
dismay at the limited size and breadth of its anticipated
observation delegation. He also noted the dearth of
international media presence in Kenya and an absence of
reporting on the referendum process.

Stormy Weather

6. (U) While Lemayian noted the low levels of voter
(compared to the 2002 elections and as evidenced in the fewer
applications for replacement voter registration cards) and
his concern over the possibility of low voter turnout, his
concern surrounds the weather. Voting materials and ballots
to be sent to each and every polling station throughout the
country, all 19,134 of them. Many of these poling stations
are difficult to reach even in the best of times. As
November is traditionally a month for rain, heavy rainfall
might significantly hamper access to some of the more
remote locations, impeding delivery of the voting
materials, including ballots, and return of the certified
voting results. Lemayian noted that some public and
private air transport might be made available to reach
otherwise inaccessible sites. However these might not be
sufficient, thus significantly delaying the release of the
certified voting results and thereby prolonging the window
for dangerous speculation.

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