Kenya’s leading media houses have been central figures in this year’s General Elections. Besides general coverage of the polls and results, it is the first time the media has had access to provisional results from polling stations uploaded to a public web portal, allowing them to tally the numbers themselves.
As a result, media houses have been running in-house tallying centres to crunch the numbers and airing results live across broadcast and digital platforms. Newsrooms dedicated enormous resources to get through the Forms 34A and Forms 34B streaming in.
In the hours immediately after the election, it was almost a race among the media houses to count the votes. Citizen TV parent firm Royal Media Services (RMS), Nation Media Group (NMG) and Standard Group were among the media houses running and airing their live tallies.
They were on course to call the election based on provisional results yesterday. As a matter of fact, Citizen TV announced on air that it expected to conclude the process by the evening of August 11. However, tallying across Kenyan media houses has appeared to slow down heading into August 12 – raising various questions with the leading candidates William Ruto and Raila Odinga locked in an extremely close race.
As only the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is allowed to declare the winner of the Presidential election, media houses have been accused of playing it safe by failing to announce a projected winner based on their tallies.
International media houses have since also started sharing their own tallies, based on the uploaded result forms. As of 1.30pm on Friday, August 12, 46,203 of 46,229 Forms 34A – representing results for the Presidential election from every polling station – had been uploaded. 213 of 291 Forms 34B – representing results for the Presidential election from each of the 291 constituencies – have also been uploaded.
The media coverage and tallying, as well as the accessibility of election data initially attracted widespread applause including from beyond Kenya’s borders. Many welcomed the changes meant to ensure transparency – noting the growth from the Supreme Court nullification of 2017 Presidential election results due to a deeply flawed process.
There was, however, some early confusion on the reason for the different tallies. The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) acknowledged the concern and anxiety that the differing tallies could generate.
The differences are explained by the fact that each media house was picking result forms from the public portal in different orders – meaning that results from different locations were being factored into their live tallies.
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) on August 10 announced an effort to ensure collaboration to offer synchronized results, but this effort seems to have fallen flat.
“The Council appreciates this as a genuine uneasiness, given its implication on anxiety levels among the public…The Media Council is in consultation with Media Owners and Editors to find an urgent solution to this to ensure Kenyans receive synchronised results,” the body noted in a statement.