afrol News, 22 February - International election observers have hailed the preparations for next month's elections in Kenya. The electoral commission seems well in charge and no unrest has been registered. A repetition of the last, traumatic polls seems improbable.
The otherwise very critical election observer mission of the US Carter Centre, led by former President and Peace Price laureate Jimmy Carter, finds surprisingly positive words in its report describing the electoral preparations in Kenya. The observers are registering a great contrast to the prelude to the 2007 elections.
"The electoral campaign generally is peaceful thus far," the Carter Centre reports. The observers say that "Kenyans have been able to assemble freely and parties and candidates able to convey their messages to potential voters."
Kenyans are to cast multiple votes on 4 March, when they choose their new president, parliament, governors and county assemblies.
According to the Carter Centre, the Kenyan Electoral Commission has done a good and "competent" job, boding well for "peaceful and credible elections." The Electoral Commission has worked closely with the Kenyan judiciary and media to strengthen the situation of justice and rule of law during the electoral period.
The Electoral Commission itself, informs about the large work it has invested in providing improved information to Kenyan journalists about the electoral process. In this way it hopes to avoid igniting newspaper headlines about vote rigging or exaggerated accusations against political opponents. A more sober press is seen as one of the keys to avoiding unrest.
The Commission says it has put special efforts into contributing to more openness about the electoral process, thereby increasing the understanding of candidates and journalists about how the system works. During the year, journalists and candidates have been given guided tours at the Electoral Commission to observe and tests technological equipments. The Commission also has travelled to the provinces to give training.
While the Carter Centre observers generally seem happy about the Electoral Commission's work, they nevertheless warn Kenyan politicians to stay sober. The observers pleaded candidates to "abide by the electoral code of conduct and to reiterate their commitment to non-violent participation in the electoral process and peaceful acceptance of the will of Kenyan voters."
The 4 March elections are the first to be held since the Kenyans approved of their 2010 constitution. The new constitution was adopted as a response to the power struggle during and following the violent elections in 2007, and after the two main rivals agreed to a power sharing deal, which is observed until today.
The two main candidates for the presidential race are Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. Uhruru is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, the founding President of Kenya (1964-78) and representing the KANU party. The current President, Mwai Kibaki, has declared his support to KANU in this elections, but is himself barred from standing candidate for a third presidential term.
The challenger, Mr Odianga, has been Kenya's Prime Minister since entering the power sharing deal with President Kibaki in 2008. He was also the main challenger to Mr Kibaki in the violent elections of 2007 and represents the Orange party (ODM).
The dividing lines in Kenyan elections are to a lesser degree about political programmes, but more about ethnic background. Mr Kenyatta and the KANU party can expect major support from the two large peoples Luo and Kikuyu. The ODM party of Mr Odinga has a broader appeal among a large number of smaller ethnic groups and has traditionally presented itself as a more democratic alterative to KANU.
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