Showdown over Election Laws Setting Stage for Chaotic Polls?

Posted by on 23rd December 2016

Categories:   Uncategorized

Members of Parliament engaged in physical fights leaving a number nursing injuries, including women MPs. Needless to mention the demeaning insults traded at each other and even at the Presidency. Sadly, the fight that occurred during the special sitting was not about the ongoing doctors’ strike that is threatening-literally the lives of majority poor Kenyans but election laws. The said laws were the product of a bi-partisan committee constituted mid-2016 and were passed indisputably. Nevertheless, in a move that reeks of mischief, Jubilee MPs were proposing amendments at this late stage in the game. What a Christmas gift!

The bone of contention over the election laws mainly revolves around the election technology. While Jubilee MPs led by Majority Leader Aden Duale had an opportunity to help the public clarify about the use of  technology in the 2017 election, they chose to unnecessarily tie it to opposition rigging claims; thereby mixing a very weighty matter that needs understanding with a lot of useless tittle-tattle.

Three months ago we clarified on this blog that the 2017 elections will be done manually.

The elections technology talked about will be employed to:

i) Register,

ii) Identify voters, and

iii) Transmit results.

It is this last bit that is contentious.

Jubilee now claims Cord co-principal Raila Odinga is planning to hack the system and rig elections. Opposition on the other hand claims Jubilee no longer intends to transmit the results electronically, and is keen on manual transmission which they say is easier to manipulate hence rig elections. Both sides have not offered any tangible evidence of the serious accusations they peddle against each other.

While it appears the bi-partisan committee that was led by Senator Orengo and Kiraitu may have formulated rather ambitious electoral reforms, the current challenge is the doing of the Isaac Hassan led team at the Independent Ethics and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The burning issue involving technology should not have been a matter politicians could take advantage of if the Isaac Hassan team did their due diligence and addressed the challenges they experienced in 2013. The failure of the outgoing IEBC Commissioners team to tackle the results transmission challenge and build confidence in the polls is the reason we are back at this nightmare and they should hang their head in shame.

Other issues of concern in the Election laws are the strict timelines that are affecting Mass Voter Registration (MVR), doubling of number of polling stations and subsequent IEBC capacity issues.  All these can be rightly blamed on the ambitious electoral reforms and are worth revisiting and debating to chart a clear way forward for the IEBC to work.

Meanwhile the 11th Parliament has demonstrated a most dishonorable behavior yet. After the war of words exchanged during the first special sitting, they attended the second one armed with guns, and proceeded to make public statements akin to incitement ahead of the 2017 elections. The MPs are obviously spoiling for blood with their hard-line positions and aggressive body language, effectively setting the tone for what is likely to become a very divisive election that might end in post-election violence. Is the National Commission for Integration and Cohesion (NCIC) going to hold them to account for their utterances while outside Parliament?

The current standoff between Cord and Jubilee is unnecessary and shows the selfish interest of our political class. While the bi-partisan committee made the laws in good spirit, it is now clear it was too ambitious and perhaps a little idealistic. Rather than trading baseless accusations at each other that only fan the flames of post-election violence, the coalitions should have agreed, in the interest of the country to meet and iron out issues that each side brings and find reason. Jubilee’s bulldozing their way through numbers in Parliament only provokes a reaction such as a mass action. The opposition on the other hand should tone down the, “it’s do or die” rhetoric because it sends the wrong signal to the electorate. It’s time the top leadership across the political divide demonstrated statesmanship by providing the leadership that is badly needed.

In the meantime, our eyes remain fixed on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the IEBC and the Political Parties Election Board to see if they will take chapter six on integrity seriously and block out politicians that have so openly shown integrity challenges, including demeaning the office of they represent. Kenyans should also take note and if these institutions fail to winnow them out, let’s do it during both party nominations and the ballot.