Fraud and vote patterns in Kenya’s 2013 election

Update: The video link now works. Many thanks to SAIS for fixing it and letting me know.


The video below has been making the rounds in the Kenyan online community. The Daily Nation even reported on the claims by UCSD Professor Clark Gibson and James Long, Asst. Prof. and University of Washington, that President Uhuru Kenyatta may not have crossed the 50% threshold in the March 4th election. The duo conducted an exit poll (N = 6000) on election day that showed both candidates in a statistical tie at 40.9% for Odinga and 40.6% for Kenyatta. In the presentation Clark and James make the case that exit polling is superior to PVT because it is immune to things like ballot stuffing and tallying fraud. NDI sponsored ELOG conducted a PVT that confirmed the results announced by the Kenyan EMB, the IEBC.


I do not really know what to make of this poll finding by James and Clark at the moment. I am waiting for the actual MP and Governor elections results to be published by the IEBC so I can try and see if the results in these local races were in line with the presidential results.

Kenyan pollsters eat humble pie

No one in the mainstream Kenyan media, at least not yet, wants to talk about the failure of opinion polls to predict the outcome of last Monday’s election (For some thoughts on the election check out my post on the monkey cage blog here).

A week to the election the three main polls showed the race to be neck and neck between Messrs Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, with a slight advantage to Mr. Odinga, on average.

But in the end it was not even close. Mr. Kenyatta handily beat Mr. Odinga by almost 7 percentage points (50.07% – 43.28%).

So what went wrong?

In my view, the pollsters missed the mark both by not taking turnout into account (despite my unwarranted advice!) and perhaps poorly weighting the results from the different regions of the country (Kenyans largely vote along ethnic lines for various instrumental reasons; ethnic groups are geographically concentrated, with variance in size and population density).

The polling firms ought to have done a better job of basing their results on likely voters as opposed to self-declared registered voters. Kenyatta’s strongholds registered voters at higher rates, and based on past elsctions, were likely to register higher turnout rates than  Odinga’s strongholds- and they did (88.6% to 84%).

My own pre-election predictions a month before the election highlighted this fact. In my estimation the polls consistently overestimated Mr. Odinga’s support.

I eagerly await the polling firms’ own rationalization of what happened. Hopefully the misses this time won’t permanently damage the public’s perception of opinion polls.

Despite the difficulties in forecasting political outcomes, it is better to have polls than fly blind into an election.

the ICC debate is a major distraction

Two weekends ago I ventured into Siaya in Nyanza province of Kenya to visit family. On the way there, I saw for the first time the consequences of the violence that rocked the country early last year. More than a year later, whole families are still living in tents at the Molo junction. Many more have had to endure life in make shift houses, still unsure of whether they will be able to return home permanently.

But in Nairobi, the issue of resettlement of Kenya’s IDPs is on no one’s radar. The hot topic right now is which ethnic chief is on the list of suspected instigators of the post-election violence that killed more than 1300 Kenyans and displaced hundreds of thousands. The political class has completely forgotten about the people who did their dirty work or suffered the consequences of the same.

It is a shame that the mainstream media in Nairobi has bought into the distraction tactics of Kenya’s (very mediocre) ruling class. As much as we should know about and debate whether to try suspected plotters of the violence here at home or in the Hague, we should continue focusing attention on those that are still suffering in tents away from schools, hospitals and their farms. These Kenyans deserve better than they are currently getting from Nairobi.