Exit poll: Raila confident with IRI

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has defended the International Republican Institute (IRI) from criticism that it hid the results of an election day poll predicting his victory over President Mwai Kibaki.

Raila's letter to IRI re-affirming ODM's co-operation with the International Republican Institute.

Raila's letter to IRI re-affirming ODM's co-operation with the International Republican Institute.

In his letter dated 18th December 2008 addressed to IRI President, Lorne Craner, Raila wrote:

“… IRI representatives briefed my staff in February [2008] about their concerns with the data. They reached out again to my staff in March to inform us that they would be doing a complete audit of questionnaires in order to ensure confidence in the results.”

“Finally, I met with IRI staff in July when they informed me of their plan to release the reentered data. I took their explanation to be the sole reason why they withheld the results …,” says Raila in the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Nairobi Chronicle.

The re-calculated results of the IRI exit poll were released in mid-2008 giving Raila a lead over Kibaki. By then, the Grand Coalition was already underway with Kibaki keeping the presidency and a new post of Prime Minister created for Raila. Many in ODM are convinced that, had IRI released the exit poll results immediately, it would have been easier to prove that Raila was the true winner of the elections.

“It has been my experience that IRI’s work in Kenya has been professional and has helped to strengthen democracy in my country,” wrote Raila in his letter.

IRI commissioned the exit poll on voters leaving polling stations on December 27, 2007. However, there were serious concerns regarding the manner in which the poll was conducted hence the delay in releasing its results.

IRI says that the opinion survey was flawed. Indeed, after a fresh evaluation was ordered, the audited and re-entered data showed different results for both candidates. The difference from the initial raw data was outside the poll’s 1.3 percent margin of error. Because of these discrepancies, IRI lost confidence in the integrity and standards of the data and decided not to release the opinion poll.

Coming back to the December 2007 General Elections, the Electoral Commission of Kenya gave President Kibaki victory with a slight lead over Raila. ODM supporters rejected the outcome and violence left over 1,000 dead and 500,000 homeless. Many of the displaced are yet to return to their former homes due to lingering ethnic tension caused by rivalry between the two men. International mediation resulted in a Grand Coalition with Kibaki as President and Raila as Prime Minister.

Inspite of the bitter exchange of words between ODM and IRI, the two organizations have resumed the amicable working relationship developed since 2006. In his letter to IRI, Raila re-affirmed the cordial ties:

“In the months following the elections, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and I have continued to work closely with IRI. IRI’s work to assist the ODM Executive Committee and Parliamentary Group to develop a legislative agenda and strategic plan for the current session of parliament is particularly appreciated. It has been my experience that IRI’s work in Kenya has been professional and has helped to strengthen democracy in my country. Overall, I appreciate IRI’s past work in Kenya.”

In the run-up to the 2007 elections Kenyan political parties, including ODM, requested more training from IRI to analyze opinion poll results so that they may better communicate with and serve their constituents.

IRI is affiliated to the US Republican party and has been conducting democracy programmes across the world for the past 25 years.

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One Response

  1. The question nobody is asking is how the local company IRI hired to do the exit poll cooked the results so badly that even IRI (which has a poor reputation) couldn’t stand by them. Who are the locals? Strategic Research. Yaani Caesar Handa. Yaani ODM Council. Yaani…

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