International organisations play many different roles during election processes in new and emerging democracies (and in countries hoping to be seen as democracies). These roles—and their impact—become particularly interesting during situations that develop into ‘an electoral crisis’. An electoral crisis is some kind of humanitarian or political (or other) crisis, where administrative or other problems in relation to an electoral process function as the trigger of the crisis. Many such crises have occurred over recent years, but this presentation will focus on the Kenyan case of 2007–08. The tragic violence and ethnic cleansing shocked the world during early 2008. The instrument established jointly by the government of Kenya and international organisations to investigate what went wrong and what should be done to remedy the situation was IREC, the Independent Review Commission. The article demonstrates how international organisations were involved during the electoral process and also makes clear that the considerable amount of international assistance before and during the election was of almost no avail. IREC's surprising conclusion was that the main problems in the elections were not the finalisation of the vote count and the tabulation or the subsequent presentation of results. One has to look to the country's ethnic composition and history, to Kenya's political culture, and to the incompetence of the Electoral Commission of Kenya to understand why the expectations of an exemplary electoral process were turned into such a misery, despite international assistance from the very beginning of the electoral process.
Jørgen Elklit specialises in the study of electoral systems and administration, electoral behaviour, political party membership, and democratization. He has written extensively on these subjects as well as on electoral administration. He has extensive experience since 1990 as an international advisor on elections and electoral systems in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Professor Elklit is a member of the South African Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) responsible for the conduct of the 1994 South African Parliamentary and Provincial Elections. He was also Secretary to the Independent Review Commission (Kenya) April-September 2008.