Visualizing irregularities in Kenya's election

The international press has been eagerly monitoring Kenya's March 4 general election for signs of the ethnic violence that left more than 1,100 people dead after the last election in 2007. By that standard, this year's contest appears to have largely gone off without a hitch. Many voters hit the polls early, getting there hours before they opened at 6 A.M., and many more stood in long lines for over five hours for the opportunity to cast their vote. You could call it a great display of democracy -- or a failure of the country's electoral commission, the IEBC, to run things smoothly.

In one of the most interesting monitoring initiatives surrounding the election, Uchaguzi, the electoral arm of the data visualization company Ushahidi, has used crowdsourced reports to collect information on irregularities happening around the country. Through Twitter, email, and a form on Uchaguzi's website, Kenyans have submitted more than 4,456 messages from almost 1,700 locations. After going through an approval and verification process, these citizen-generated reports have helped paint a clearer picture of how the election really went.

Violence has been reported (in pink) in Nairobi, Nyeri, Kipsigak, Naivasha, and Mombasa, but most mishaps in the country seem to have stemmed from administrative failures and problems with new biometric voter registration machines that were meant to modernize the process. Kenyans reported instances of bribery, polls opening late, and some eligible voters being turned away because their names weren't on voter lists. In Homa Bay, Uchaguzi noted that there were some cases of a "complete lack of elections taking place."

Most reports of violence centered on Nairobi, where there were specific mentions of the presence of weapons and hate speech, and insufficient law enforcement. Queue-jumping was also an issue, with the Toronto Star reporting that some mothers "rented" out their children to other people so that they could cut to the front of lines. There have also been positive reports (shown in green) of peace efforts, strong police presences, or, quite simply, everything running smoothly.  

The accused war criminal Uhuru Kenyatta currently has a strong lead in the vote tally, but problems with rejected ballots and the fact that many pro-Odinga areas have yet to be counted could still alter the outcome. While the IEBC technically has a week to declare the winner, results are expected to be announced tomorrow. 

Overall, the lack of violence has made the election a success. But with all the bumps experienced by the IEBC, the real democratic victors could be citizen-participation tools like Uchaguzi.  


It's official: Nicolás Maduro wants to be Chávez 2.0

For all those wondering what kind of leader Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro will be when he succeeds the ailing Hugo Chávez, you may have just gotten your answer. During a televised address Tuesday on the Venezuelan president's fragile health and the country's political future, Maduro ripped several pages from Chávez's populist, anti-imperialist playbook.

First there was the announcement that Venezuela will be expelling David Del Monaco, an Air Force attache for the U.S. Embassy, within 24 hours for allegedly trying to rope the Venezuelan military into a "conspiratorial plan" to destabilize the government. Back in 2008, Chávez gave the American ambassador 72 hours to leave the country after accusing the Bush administration of supporting a military plot to overthrow him.

Then there was Maduro's promise to reveal "scientific proof" that Chávez's foreign and domestic enemies had poisoned the Venezuelan leader (presumably with cancer). In 2011, Chávez leveled a similar charge -- wondering aloud whether the United States was infecting Latin America's leaders with cancer.

Maduro also referred to the country's political right-wing as an "enemy of the nation" -- language Chávez employed, even more bitingly, when describing his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, during the last election.

In his December profile of Maduro for FP, Peter Wilson quotes a professor of Latin American history arguing that it's "impossible to expect Maduro to be another Chávez." Instead, the professor explained, "he represents continuity with the policies and programs that the president has promoted." If today's address is any indication, Maduro is planning to cloak himself in the more conspiratorial dimensions of Chavismo as well. What'll be interesting to watch is whether he succeeds -- or comes across as an inferior imitation of the Bolivarian Revolution's original steward.