It is something of a paradox that general elections can create a better or a worse future for a country. This is especially in transitional countries where democracy is prone to sabotage. For instance, over a year to the 2017 polls, already three people have died and scores injured, following anti-IEBC protests. It is needless to mention the dangerous speech that quickly followed the protests. This is why the Election Laws (Amendment) and the IEBC (Amendment) Bills are key and needs solid input from our MPs.
The last general election held in 2013 being the first under the new constitution had its fair share of challenges, particularly with regard to the nitty-gritty issues around election best practices and therefore the two bills. The output of the Bills ought not to be less than a well thought out structure that will ensure smooth running of the polls and eventually have reasonable mitigation measures in the event that parties are not satisfied with polls outcome.
Elections being an emotive issue there is need for MPs to be sober with these Bills and stop playing party politics at the expense of the nation. Already there appears to be too much antagonism within and without Parliament by government and opposition MPs over the IEBC impasse. Apparently, the negotiated Joint Committee is in wrangles with National Assembly’s Justice and Legal affairs committee over jurisdiction leading to conflicting parallel investigations.
In the meantime, Justice and Legal affairs Committee concluded their probe on IEBC and found no grounds to relieve the IEBC commissioners from office. These hard stances held by our lawmakers only puff their ego but solve nothing. That is why we need sober laws to give direction in desperate moments.
The IEBC (amendment) Bill for instance seeks to empower political parties in appointing IEBC Commissioners so as to enhance trust in the commission. This is important because the opposition led protests against IEBC have been on the basis that the commissioners, particularly the chairperson are biased.
Consequently, the Election Laws Bill hopes to deal clearly with issues arising from voter registration that have affected turn out in polls, which also remains emotive especially in North Eastern region. It also attempts to create reasonable timelines regarding the inspection of the register and publication of notice by the electoral commission before the general elections.
Also of interest is the clause to have political parties nominate their candidates at least 90days before the elections and listen to disputes arising from the nominations within 40days. Additionally, political parties should submit their nomination rules six months before elections. This if adhered to, will help reduce the confusion politicians bring to the electorate through shambolic party nominations that have characterized party elections and the notorious party hoping and party buying, few days to the elections. Indeed, this will also kill the existence of briefcase parties that take advantage of greedy political candidates.
More importantly, the Elections Bill will deal with those members of parliament who keep lowering the bar to become a Member of Parliament through backdoor legislation. The Bill provides that, a person seeking nomination for an election should possess a minimum qualification of a degree in the case of Parliamentary elections and a diploma in the case of county assembly elections.
MPs should ignore calls by a few anti-progress colleagues and pass these important Bills without too many amendments. On the other hand, members of the public should take keen interest and participate when called upon.