Kenya Says New Challenge to Ballot Tender Would Delay Vote

  • Authorities awarded ballot-printing contract to U.A.E company
  • Opposition head says delayed election better than flawed one

Kenya’s elections body said it may find it difficult to conduct the national vote on Aug. 8 as scheduled if its decision to award a ballot-printing contract to a Dubai-based company faces another challenge.

If the choice of Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing Ltd. is challenged now, “we will not be ready for elections,” Ezra Chiloba, chief executive officer of the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission, said Friday in an interview.

The electoral body earlier said Al Ghurair won the 2.5 billion-shilling ($24.2-million) contract to print 120 million ballot papers, even after previous attempts to award the tender to the company were quashed by the High Court in February and a government procurement review body in May.

“Considering available options, the commission resolved to award the tender for ballot papers to Al Ghurair,” the IEBC said on its Twitter account.

Kenyan elections are a source of nervousness for investors in East Africa’s biggest economy. A dispute between supporters of rival parties over the outcome of a presidential election in December 2007 sparked two months of violence that left 1,100 people dead and forced 350,000 others to flee their homes. The clashes also caused Kenya’s economic growth rate to slump to 1.7 percent in 2008 from 7.1 percent a year earlier.

The High Court nullified the earlier contract decision because IEBC commissioners hadn’t yet been appointed, Chiloba said in the capital, Nairobi.

Urgent Matter

“We opted for direct single sourcing because of the urgency of the matter,” he said. “An open tender would take 120 days and by then the election date would have passed.”

Raila Odinga, the presidential candidate of the opposition National Super Alliance, has raised questions over the IEBC’s handling of the ballot supply contract. The 72-year-old former prime minister is seeking to stop President Uhuru Kenyatta from securing a second term in the August vote.

Granting the contract to the company after the court ruling “makes us suspicious that there is something sinister going on,” Odinga said in a June 7 interview in Nairobi. He said his coalition might accept the election being postponed if that would ensure a credible vote.

“It’s better a delayed election than a flawed election,” Odinga said. “We don’t think this country can live with another flawed election.”

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