By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy/Tribune Newspapers
NAIROBI, Kenya – Six months after a deeply flawed election triggered a wave of ethnic killings in Kenya, a U.S. government-funded exit poll indicates that the wrong candidate was declared the winner.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga scored “a clear win outside the margin of error” according to surveys of voters as they left polling places on Election Day, the poll’s author said.
The incumbent Kibaki was sworn in for a second term despite major irregularities in vote-counting, sparking tribal attacks that killed more than 1,000 people, the worst violence in this East African nation in nearly two decades.
The exit poll, whose existence was first reported in January, was financed by the Washington-based International Republican Institute, a non-partisan democracy-building organization, with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the foreign-aid arm of the State Department.
Amid a worldwide furor over the election results, the institute decided not to release the poll, citing concerns about its validity. But the poll’s authors and the former head of the institute’s program in Kenya stand by the research, which the authors presented Tuesday in Washington.
In the exit poll, Odinga had 46.07 percent of the vote to 40.17 percent for Kibaki, a difference well outside the poll’s margin of error of 1.32 percentage points. The official results gave Kibaki 46.42 percent of the vote to 44.07 percent for Odinga.
The research by James Long, a doctoral candidate in political science at UCSD, and Clark Gibson, the chairman of the university’s political science department, offers more evidence of serious fraud in Kenya’s government election commission.
According to the pollsters’ projections, Odinga, who also led Kibaki in pre-election polls, should have received about 58,000 more votes than he was credited with. Kibaki should have received about 356,000 fewer votes.