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Kenyan opposition to tell court that technology enabled election fraud

NAIROBI – Kenya’s opposition will argue before the Supreme Court that technology enabled rather than curbed election fraud, as it seeks to overturn a vote this month won by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA) said in a petition filed on Friday that results from more than a third of polling stations were “fatally flawed”, in some cases because of irregularities in electronic transmission of paper results forms.

The documents suggest the opposition will link alleged irregularities to the murder of Chris Msando, the election official overseeing information technology, days before the Aug. 8 election.

Kenyatta won a second term by 1.4 million votes, election authorities said. A parallel tally by independent monitors based on a sample of around 2,000 polling stations produced a similar result.

At least 28 people died in election-related violence after the vote, mainly in areas where Odinga has strong support, according to the Kenya Commission on Human Rights.

“The series of gaps, whether deliberate or product of negligence, frustrated the use of technology to deliver an accountable results transmission process,” reads one of the documents. “Manipulation and distortion of results renders it impossible to tell who actually won.”

The commission and Kenyatta must respond to the petition by the end of Friday and proceedings are to begin on Saturday.

Odinga lost in a 2013 election and also challenged the result in court. His lawyers argued then the failure of the electronic system to transmit numbers from polling stations to a tallying center hurt the chances of a fair vote.

Some other critics of the commission’s performance this time said technology has again hindered transparency.

“This election failed in exactly the same way as the previous election,” said George Kegoro, the head of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, who submitted an affidavit as part of the petition. The role of technology has been to obfuscate failures in accountability by the [commission].”

Opposition leaders began alleging fraud the day after the vote but have not produced evidence of rigging before now.

Some claims are not linked to technology. One document says turnout was more than 100 percent at some polling stations.

Another says results from 5,015 polling stations had not been made available by the commission before Friday, the deadline for filing a court appeal.

Several observers said the opposition did not conduct a parallel tally and has not challenged the results with a complete data set of their own.

The court must rule by September 1. If it rules in favor of the opposition, a new presidential election must be held within 60 days.

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