The disputed Kenyan election is now being fought legally, with the Supreme Court judgment due Friday, September 1st.1 Public attention is on what the case reveals about the standard of the election: namely, were the elections administered properly, and are the results believable?
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will be defending its conduct of the elections, and the supporting documentation for presidential results delivered verbally on August 11th. The question of an electoral standard will have to be addressed, even though there is no one identifiable, documented global standard for an election. International observation is in fact of limited value in this regard, particularly in Africa, as standards of process tend to be devalued rather than elevated by international observers through what is described as a comparative approach. International observers use the term ‘generally free and fair’ to legitimize standards that would not be acceptable in their own countries. They are also frequently constrained by diplomatic and strategic considerations. However, there are nonetheless recognized benchmarks and fundamentals accepted as essential to a democratic election, like a single certified Register of Voters and publicly verifiable results.