Kenya politics: Quick View - Ballot-paper dispute remains unsettled

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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Politics, News Analysis
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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) warned on June 9th that the forthcoming election, scheduled for August 8th, could be delayed unless a long-running dispute about the procurement of ballot papers is resolved in time.


The problem arose after the High Court, in February, cancelled a KSh2.5bn (US$24.3m) ballot-printing contract awarded to a Dubai-based firm, Al Ghurair, in September 2016, partly because the deal was settled before the installation of a new IEBC in January. The Court of Appeal confirmed the verdict in April, and ordered a new tender, before additional disputes caused further delays. As a result, the IEBC, in early June, again handed the contract to Al Ghurair, via direct single sourcing, because of the lack of time left for an open tender, which requires 120 days, or even a restricted tender lasting about 60 days.

Given the controversies surrounding the procurement process and doubts about its integrity, the main opposition group, the National Super Alliance, says it intends to launch a fresh court challenge against the latest contract award, even though the IEBC says this would leave it with insufficient time finish election preparations before polling day. The opposition, nonetheless, say they would prefer a delay if this would help to ensure a credible vote, rather than accepting the IEBC's contract award and risking a flawed outcome, with the attendant dangers of disputes and violence.

The impasse represents a dilemma for the authorities, as the election date is constitutionally mandated, and could not be changed without a two-thirds majority in parliament (a target that has so far proved unattainable), but an absence of ballot papers would make an election impossible. A formal, official confirmation of the opposition's latest challenge is still pending, which suggests that a negotiated settlement may still be within reach, although the opposition would probably require further assurances about the contract's integrity. In a further sign that the election will go ahead as planned, a parliamentary committee agreed on June 12th to hand an additional KSh2.5bn to the IEBC to cover the cost of the ballot-paper procurement.

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