How to bungle an election

Well this has gone to shit fast.

The Coat of arms of Kenya
The Coat of arms of Kenya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here we were with an expensive electronic system that was supposed to guard against rigging, gerrymandering and all sorts of irregularities that are the staple of Kenyan elections. All that is until the whole damn thing collapsed with so many issues that it was fully abandoned and now we are back to the 19th century with manual counting. Atleast we have calculators. That should help.

Some say, the issue was the server running out of harddisk space, others that Safaricom collapsed under the traffic (which was pitifully little, only hashed text was being sent from the Returning officers.) Others speculate that the server (vulnerable like anything else connected to the internet) was hacked to bits and a permanent 400,000 lead in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta was coded in.

The conspiracy theory in me tells me this is more a human problem than a technical one. Someone/some people are trying to rig themselves in and the ripple effects of these actions are the visible events at Bomas of Kenya. I say this at the risk of being branded a warmonger or unpatriotic kenyan ad nauseam but I stand by it. There is nothing normal about the Chairman of the IEBC insisting on the fact that the law gives him a week to announce the presidential results. That signals a big problem that has required a recount or in depth audit of the results filed by the Returning officers. The slow rate at which the results are bing announced is also disheartening. & constituencies since morning. What possible issue could justify such a rate?

A useful site has been put up by Eric Hersman  to investigate the internals of the system and the flow of the electoral information from the polling centers to the National     Tallying center. Here is the site (http://iebctechkenya.tumblr.com/). This should be the start of the investigation into how a Ksh. 10 Billion plus election that has spent extremely heavily on tech has proceeded to dump the tech.

As is the Kenyan style, the biggest problem that the public has is with the PR department of the IEBC. Everything was fine 5 hrs after tallying began until the incrments slowed down to a painful trickle. All through the communication style of the commission was unsatisfactory with all manner of quotations of the law with less and less of what the public actually wanted. Actual results!

Speculation without evidence is generally shunned in my circles so I avoid it. But with scanty information coming from the authorities, throwing stones in the dark tends to get a response.

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