Elections lie at the core of how governance is established and developed. The Presidential Elections petition presented to the Supreme Court after the 2013 General Elections, warrants interrogation so that any lapses in law and practice can be rectified before the next elections.
It is on this premise that stakeholders converged at the ‘Rethinking Elections Management in Kenya’ forum to audit the elections and the Supreme Court decision, as well as interrogate the case, judgment and consider useful steps to amend its shortcomings.
The forum highlighted five key issues. The first was the procurement and the use of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) and the Electronic Voter Identification Device (EVID) Kits. It was clear that the investment made was not only inadequate but also the kits were not robustly tested to check possibilities of failure. As it turned out, technology failed to deliver.
Secondly, the need for better election preparedness was spotlighted. Most Kenyans look at the election as an event, yet in reality, election is a process and only polling is an event. This attitude has significant implications on not only candidates in the polls but also voters, political parties, the electoral commission and the judiciary, as major decisions are often made last minute and in a hurry.
Thirdly, the fidelity of the voter register was questioned. During the election queries on what the final voter register comprised of and who had access to it were raised and the Supreme Court did not provide a conclusive response. In future, Kenyans need to own, interrogate and inspect this register because it determines participants in the election, who wins and how the country will be governed.
The fourth issue was the political party nomination and dispute resolution thereafter. Most political parties bungled their nominations and the dispute resolution processes revealed institutional weaknesses and confusion which must be addressed fast. In fact, great candidates were ousted in the shambolic nominations. In Kenya, nominations by a strategic political party are actually like the main election as the winner is often a shoe-in the polls; hence the need for more rigour.
The last issue raised was the composition of the electoral commissioners. Elections management is about perception and there is need to ensure those who lead the process can be held accountable by key players in the election e.g. political parties.
Meanwhile in Parliament, Hon. David Ochieng’ has tabled a bill that seeks to change the election date from Second Tuesday of August as set in the Constitution to the third Monday of December. The reasoning is that August disrupts the current cycle of things including the education calendar but December does not.
It is clear that many issues need to be resolved now and not wait for 2017. Kenyans need to interrogate election related laws and push for their improvement as well as monitor election preparations by the IEBC, Registrar of Political Parties and political parties. Decisions made have to put Kenyans interest’s first, not just politicians!