NAIROBI, Kenya — Political party primaries to select candidates for Kenya's March national elections have been fraught with irregularities, disorganization and disgruntled losers, increasing the chances of conflict during the upcoming vote, analysts said Friday.
That's bad news for those trying to avoid a repeat of what happened after Kenya's 2007 elections, when a dispute over who won the presidency led to weeks of violence that left more than 1,000 people dead. The primary voting this week did little to instill confidence that officials are ready for another national vote.
The voting began Thursday, but most political parties were forced to extend it to Friday because of problems at the polls such as a lack of ballots.
"This has been a sham largely because you clearly see that the political parties did not want to prepare to hold a credible nomination exercise," said Cyprian Nyamwamu, a political analyst and consultant for local observer groups. "Once you have credible primaries then the areas of conflict or disputes in the elections reduce."
Scores of Kenyans were disappointed when they turned up at the crack of dawn Thursday at polling stations and waited for hours only to be told that the process was stalled. A lack of ballot papers, a lack of polling clerks and incomplete ballots were among the reasons voters were given.
Nyamwamu said political party chiefs had at least six months to plan and prepare for the primaries but failed to do so deliberately in order to find a way to later directly nominate their allies, family, friends, and rich unpopular candidates who do not want to go through the primary process.
He said another motive behind the failure was money: Political parties chiefs do not want to spend money they've made from charging candidates nomination fees, which can add up to millions of dollars across the country.
He predicted that a great number of legislators would have lost their election bid in fairly run primaries owing to their poor performance in parliament.
Kennedy Masine, an official of the local Election Observer Group, described Thursday's attempt to hold nominations as a "phenomenal failure."
Two political parties have emerged as the strong contenders to win most of the parliamentary seats in March.
One is the Jubilee Alliance, a coalition of parties led by two politicians facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for allegedly orchestrating the 2007-08 post-election violence. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former government minister William Ruto are presidential and vice presidential candidates in the coalition.
The second party is the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy. The key parties are led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka. Odinga was second during the 2007 election for president, which he and international observers said were flawed.
Odinga came to a power-sharing deal with the winner of the 2007 race, Mwai Kibaki, who is finishing his second term as president and who is constitutionally barred from running again for a third term. The agreement helped end the political crisis that had left so many dead.
Kenya's elections this year should turn the page on the bloodshed of five years ago, but the risk of political violence is still unacceptably high, the International Crisis Group said in a report Thursday. Politicians must stop ignoring rules, exploiting grievances and stoking divisions through ethnically targeted campaigning, the group said.