A Paw Paw couple worked as election observers on Monday in Kenya. It was the first election held in the African nation since a new Constitution was ratified. Joe and Kathy Ossman spoke by Skype with WMUK's Gordon Evans on Tuesday morning.
The Ossmans observed elections in the small town of Lumakanda. They are volunteers with the African Great Lakes Initiative. They have also been writing about their experiences on their blog, Peacemaking in Africa.
Joe Ossman says there were long lines at the beginning of the day, in part because of problems with a computer system that is designed to identify registered voters. He says once that computer program was working, voting went more smoothly.
Results have come in slowly. As of Tuesday morning, results only reflected about a third of the votes cast. Kathy Ossman says one concern about elections is that the political parties have observers at the polls. She says in the past there was a long history of those party "agents" intimidating people at polling places. Kathy Ossman says that's now illegal, but party agents were at the polls again on Monday.
Joe Ossman says counting the votes was not done until the early hours of Tuesday. But he says at their polling station in Lumakanda, it appears that there were no problems. Kathy Ossman says officials of all political parties signed off on the results at their polling station, and she says there were few spoiled ballots. Kathy Ossman says that is a sign of progress compared to the last election.
The Paw Paw couple will be in Kenya for another seven weeks. The country's new Constitution requires the winning candidate to capture a majority of the vote. If no candidate wins a majority there would be a run-off election in April. Joe and Kathy Ossman say they would be election observers again if a run-off election is needed.
Both Joe and Kathy Ossman say voters were well-prepared for Monday's election in Kenya. The Ossmans say voter education programs they participated in, and other efforts helped get voters ready to cast their ballots.
In 2007 massive violence followed elections in Kenya, so far there have been few problems reported. But Kathy Ossman says the next big event is the announcement of final results.