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How Kenya opposition NASA lost Aug 8 elections

Kenya’s opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) members have been talking like a dazed boxer regaining consciousness after hours of resuscitation. They are assigning numerous reasons to the defeat, contrary to the leader’s refrain that the Alliance won last Tuesday’s polls. A campaign team member in Nairobi’s Westlands is reported as saying that the group did not invest in information technology to ensure prompt collation of results received across the country.

These members believe the opposition group failed to derive the full benefits of both investments and counsel that was aimed at securing them the much needed victory in the recent polls, to end the what they said is the wanton dissipation of state resources by the current regime. They insist that the deportation of the experts from USA, Canada and Ghana was the genesis of their defeat. Their absence robbed the group of  the infrastructure for tallying votes from all polling stations and constituencies to enable them do their own cross-tabulations. Again, the parallel tallying centres discussed also failed to materialise, all leading to the group’s near-ten percent trouncing by the incumbent UhuRuto campaign.

Uhuru Kenyatta was reelected on Tuesday

But what do the figures from last Tuesday’s elections show? For the purposes of this article, I select five constituencies for both parties where, they garnered the largest votes in the 2013 polls.

Kisumu gave ODM (now NASA) its largest lead of over 332,000 votes to obtain 96.6% of total valid votes. This was followed by Homa Bay with over 302,000, constituting 98.9% of total valid votes. Kakamega followed with 290,000 (63.84) votes in favour of ODM in the 2013 elections, as well as Siaya and Machakos with more than 283,000 (98.47) and 280,000 votes (85.89%), respectively.

The Jubilee Alliance then, polled over 640,000 votes (90.21), in its ‘World Bank’ of Kiambu, followed by over 390,000 votes (95.82%), in Murang’a. Meru also gave Uhuru’s party more that 352,000 votes forming 89.41%, followed by Nyeri and Nakuru with over 313,000 (93.33%) and 298,000 votes (80.91), on each side.

In last week’s polls, Kisumu, the County that gave ODM the largest number of votes in the last elections, kept faith and increased its tally to over 422,000 votes (97.90), but Kiambu did more. It increased Jubilee’s tally to over 840,000 votes (92.71).  The outturn nearly cancels NASA’s lead in Machakos as recorded in 2013 as well.

Again, in Homa Bay County, though NASA added over 96,000 votes to the (ODM) votes making its tally 99.35%, Jubilee Party polled nearly 99,000 extra votes in Murang’a to cancel the number of additional absolute votes gained by NASA in this stronghold.

Furthermore, in Kakamega, NASA led with over 421,000 votes, constituting 87.36% of valid votes. But this was negated by the over 427,000 votes lead by the Jubilee Party in Meru. Again, NASA’s over 374,000 votes lead in Siaya was cancelled by Jubilee’s Nyeri votes, which stood at over 383,000 votes.

Finally, given that Jubilee’s Kiambu lead virtually took out the entire gains made by NASA in Machakos, the former’s over 500,000 votes in Nakuru will still have over 400,000 votes for NASA to scuttle before scrambling for its share of swing votes, where Jubilee did not perform any poorer.

So, did NASA need foreign ‘experts’ to set up infrastructure to receive and tally votes from across the country? Or deploy more than two polling agents to each polling station to protect its votes? Kenya is touted as the continent’s ‘tech’ powerhouse. Why did NASA need to import foreigners to set up an application as basic as one for receiving and tallying results from various constituencies across Kenya? Because obviously as it’s turned out, not all members of the group thought it was the best idea and some have not shied away from lamenting over how imprudent the idea was, once the chips fell.

“Instead, a few foreign experts were entrusted with the responsibility of setting up the infrastructure for vote tallying that never was. We had a group of well-paid experts from the US, Canada and Ghana, but they failed to set-up the infrastructure we required,” a campaign official said.

However, despite its own failings, NASA leader, Raila Odinga, discredited the polls about seven hours into counting, suggesting that ‘lotto numbers’ were being thrown out, rather than results from polling stations. His basis was that the form 34As to verify the Polling Station results put out, did not accompany what was beamed live at the National Tallying Centre, that all media houses – local and international – had projected to their audiences.

Odinga labeled the outcome as fictitious, suggesting those results in the public domain, were the result of a hacking of the Elections Management Body’s system, rather than the expressed will of the Kenyan electorate. He said earlier results released, which were in his possession, put him miles ahead of the incumbent and could not fathom why the results put out by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), showed him trailing his main opponent and President, Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party. His lamentations led many Kenyans to question whether NASA indeed had its own tallying centres as were trumpeted in the media ahead of the elections?

As it is emerging now, those experts let NASA down. This is the picture from comments of officials who have parroted their discontent over how strategic decisions taken at the boardroom, were eventually implemented. Was it not possible to share whatever infrastructure and other details well ahead of the polls with trusted party officials?

The deportations and prevention from entering Nairobi, took place the Friday before the polls. Was that when Mac Manu and co were going to deploy the magic wand? It would also be interesting to find out how ‘the powers that be’ in Kenya discovered Mac Manu’s theorem of ‘adopt a polling station’, known to have been employed by Ghana’s NPP in the last elections, entered the lexicon of Kenya’s political space. But as has been discussed elsewhere, its implementation lacked the tact that was prerequisite to making it count.

Again, would Mac Manu and co take a hit for a strategy that lacked coherence in NASA’s campaign narrative that is accused of suffering from crass disorganisation? As has come out subsequent to the polls, there were obvious rivalries that showed throughout the campaign, sometimes in the full glare of cameras. One of the prevailing claims is the supposed struggle for supremacy among the principals.

People began queuing early in the morning and even overnight to cast their votes
People began queuing early Tuesday morning and even overnight to cast their votes in Kenya

Whose idea was it for the parties in the Alliance to field multiple candidates in the National Assembly, Senate and Gubernatorial elections? Didn’t the principals anticipate the open hostilities that could ensue, as has been recorded between ODM’s governor-elect Hassan Joho and his opponent, Wiper’s Hassan Omar in Mombasa? Bungoma also recorded a similar incident. How could these show a common cause?

Even though it had come under numerous attacks in the period leading up to the elections, the Jubilee campaign seemed well coordinated and as expected, was well targeted to various segments of the Kenyan voting populace. On the contrary, NASA members have accused the alliance of running a single narrative campaign that only exposed the rot in government and failed to sell its own agenda to the voting populace.

According to local political experts, Deputy President William Ruto’s frequent visits to Western and Gusii regions to offer olive branches, to compensate for vote losses in 2013, paid off handsomely. NASA on the other hand, suffered from numerous blunders, which probably drove the proverbial final nail into its own casket – tribally charged claims in speeches by Raila Odinga and his running mate, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, asking the Maasai not to sell land to outsiders and claiming that those in Mt Kenya will have to lie low only helped bring out the vote in central Kenya. “It worked for Jubilee,” Chebunet is reported as saying.

As it stands, it looks like NASA has to turn its antennas within to probe its own processes rather than inciting a gullible public to turn against a duly elected government. They may have their day, come election 2022.

I rest my case.

By Kobby Gomez-Mensah

The writer is a Kenya-based Ghanaian journalist

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