The instance of retired President Mwai Kibaki versus one Jael Mbogo, who kicked off her political career in 1958 in the pre-independence era as councillor of the then Native Eastlands ward in Nairobi’s Bahati estate, is one such prominent case.

Coming up in the 1969 contest against the then Finance and Economics minister in the President Jomo Kenyatta administration, Mbogo was viewed as the underdog in the Bahati constituency race.

However, she took a surprise lead during the vote-counting only for the Kibaki agents to switch off lights in the counting hall and execute the plot that absolutely changed the poll outcome.

Then each candidate was assigned a ballot box with his or her picture on it and Mbogo claims, in an earlier interview with this writer, that some of her ballot boxes were sneaked out of the counting hall and burnt.

Kibaki survived with an advantage of 111 votes and switched his base to his rural home in Othaya, Nyeri, thereafter. 

POLL RIGGING

The idea of assigning a ballot box for each candidate indeed facilitated easy poll rigging in the 1960s through to 1970s.

In most cases, candidates destroyed or tossed opponents’ ballot boxes out of the counting halls, with some literally fleeing with them upon sensing defeat.

Another archaic rule was that which stipulated midday of a given day as the deadline for aspirants to present nomination papers.

Dramatic, absurd and even laughable scenes were witnessed as some aspirants were hijacked, driven off and released shortly after the midday deadline.

There were also cases of hired goons snatching and fleeing with nomination papers of aspirants.

Local District Commissioners, who served as returning officers, were largely indifferent to such dirty manoeuvres.

The presidential candidate, ordinarily the incumbent, only survived similar mischief courtesy of state power and security.

NOMINATION PAPERS

During his tenure of office, retired President Daniel arap Moi routinely presented his nomination papers to the National Supervisor of Elections at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.

And after excited murmurs from government officials and supporters, the supervisor would rise from his seat a few seconds to midday.

At exactly midday, the President would be declared the sole candidate and therefore duly elected unopposed.

Most of these archaic rules have since undergone gradual changes – thanks to the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG) reforms in 1997, the proposed electoral reforms by South Africa’s retired Justice Johann Kriegler and a new Constitution that came into effect in 2010.  

Now Presidential term limits have been stipulated and a date of the elections set in the Constitution.

SECRET WEAPON

Under the Kenyatta senior and Moi administrations, the election date was regarded as the Executive’s “secret weapon” unleashed only when circumstances were favourable for them to win elections. 

And unlike before where a presidential winner was determined by a simple majority of the votes cast, now rules are fairer and stricter.

Besides winning a clear majority of over fifty per cent of the votes cast, a presidential winner must garner at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in half of the counties.  

The situation sounds fairer in other ballots as well, with same ballot boxes serving all candidates for various elective seats.

From the previous black colour, the boxes are literally transparent and the counting of votes has been cascaded down to the polling station, thereby reducing possibilities of mix up and rigging.

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