January 15, 2008 in Nation/World

U.S.-backed exit poll finds Kenyan president lost

Shashank Bengali McClatchy
 

NAIROBI, Kenya – An exit poll carried out on behalf of a U.S. government-backed foundation indicates that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was defeated in last month’s disputed election rather than being re-elected as he claims, according to officials with knowledge of the document.

The poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute – which hasn’t been publicly released – further undermines an election result that many international observers have described as flawed. The outcome has sparked protests and ethnically driven clashes that have killed hundreds.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga led Kibaki by roughly 8 percentage points in the poll, which surveyed voters as they left polling places during the election Dec. 27, according to one senior Western official who has seen the data and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. That’s a sharp departure from the results that Kenyan election officials certified, which gave Kibaki a margin of 231,728 votes over Odinga, about 3 percentage points.

U.S. and European observers have criticized the official results, which came after long, unexplained delays in counting the votes, primarily from Kibaki strongholds. Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said over the weekend that there were “serious irregularities in the vote tallying, which made it impossible to determine with certainty the final result.”

The head of the International Republican Institute – a nonpartisan democracy-building organization whose work in Kenya was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development – said the data weren’t released because of concerns about their validity.

The senior Western official, who reviewed partial results, described them as credible. The survey included a sufficient sample of voters from around the country, and Odinga’s lead was comfortably outside the expected margin of error for a poll of that size, the official said.

“What it tells me is there was an exit poll that had one candidate with a significant lead who, at the end of the day, was not declared the victor. That seems to me to be a little surprising,” the official said.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email