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By Derek Kilner
Nairobi
03 December 2007

A coalition of Kenyan non-governmental organizations has released a new report charging parties and candidates with widespread bribing of voters before presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December 27. Derek Kilner has more for VOA from Nairobi.

Supporters gather to support President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity when he presented his nomination papers in Nairobi, 15 Nov 2007
Supporters gather to support President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity when he presented his nomination papers in Nairobi, 15 Nov 2007
The report, based on a survey conducted in 71 legislative constituencies, found that nearly 80 percent of voters were offered cash or other gifts before party nominations for seats in parliament in mid-November.

The report, released by the Coalition for Accountable Political Financing, a group of 36 Kenyan organizations, says candidates spent more than $14 million on bribes by the time the nominations process was complete. The report also notes less than one third of this money was distributed to individual voters, with the majority going to middlemen employed by the candidates.

Report author Charles Otieno, who heads the organization Polity and Policy, explains the rational behind the bribery.

"Look at it this way, you have a constituency that is very poor, people living on less than one dollar a day, and someone turns up with one dollar every day to offer you to vote for them on the election day," he said. "So what politicians do is they come up with a strategy of actually getting voters in different social groups and these people actually give the money every day to secure their vote on election day"

Otieno says the money used for bribes comes from a variety of sources

"A lot of it is stolen from the state, from the government. A lot of it is donated from private companies that actually want to secure certain contracts with the government in the future. A lot of it is from their savings," he added. "Some of it is also from what has been donated by the people. But we believe much of it is corrupt because most politicians cannot account for the millions that they are spending in the campaign."

The NGO coalition, whose members include the League of Kenya Women Voters and the Kenya branch of Transparency International, was partly funded by contributions from Britain and the United States. The report focused on the campaigns for party nominations for parliamentary seats.

Many of Kenya's parties have strong regional and ethnic bases. And in districts dominated by a single party, securing that party's nomination is seen as a virtual ticket to parliament. The nomination process also set off a series of violent protests in mid-November.

Otieno says the government is making progress on reforming campaign finance, but there is still a long way to go.

"It is a travesty. We do not have a democracy. What we have here is a group of rich people buying their seat in parliament," he said.

Kenya is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on December 27. President Mwai Kibaki, running on the Party of National Unity ticket, is locked in a close contest with challenger Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement.

Most opinion polls show Mr. Odinga leading the president by a slight margin, but the gap has narrowed considerably in recent weeks.

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