Is IEBC ready? Pressure piles on Chebukati
The electoral commission has found itself at the centre of a political storm over its preparedness to conduct a fair and credible election with only 32 days left before the polls.
Of particular concern by stakeholders is the failure by the Wafula Chebukati-led Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to fulfill some of the requirements of the law regarding the testing of equipment, results transmission, voter register and commission’s unwavering insistence that it will only use the electronic voting and result transmission systems and do away with a manual register, which it has said can be used to abet ballot stuffing.
Yesterday, the commission’s woes deepened when Azimio-One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga said there would be no election if IEBC does not allow use of the manual voters’ register.
“I declare here that use of a manual register in each polling centre is a must and it is not negotiable,” Raila told a campaign rally in Githunguri, Kiambu County.
“IEBC must ensure a manual register is in use during the polling day along with an electronic one, or else there will be no elections”. Accompanied by his running mate, Martha Karua, Raila claimed the refusal by IEBC to use a manual register was part of a scheme to rig the election. He also charged that his team was aware of a plot by Azimio’s opponents to introduce stuffed ballots. “We know they have dispatched some people to a foreign country where the ballot papers are being printed. The plot is to have at least 200 pre-marked ballots in 10,000 polling centers,” he said.
His allegations came a day after media reports appeared to link Kenya Kwanza co-principal Moses Wetang’ula to business dealings with Inform Lykos, the Greek company that IEBC awarded the tender to print ballot papers and other electoral materials, including results declaration forms.
Other Azimio leaders revisited the accusations, alleging a plot to rig elections.
Azimio Secretary General Junet Mohammed called for speedy investigations into Wetangula’s relationship with Inform Lykos. The Suna East MP further urged Chebukati to come clean on the issue of conflict of interest on the ballot paper printing tender.
“This is not a matter that can be taken lightly. Chebukati we know you bungled the 2017 General-Election,” Junet said.
However, Wetang’ula distanced himself from the allegations. He described the claims as a political witch-hunt by his rivals from Azimio to disparage his name ahead of the polls.
“I have no interest whatsoever in any paper business, least of all ballot papers for any elections. I do not trade in paper or printing. I am a full time politician and lawyer, sometimes straying into farming,” Wetang’ula said. (Story Page 13).
However, when it rains, at least for IEBC, it pours. To add to the commission’s woes, independent presidential aspirants gave Chebukati and his team a seven-day ultimatum to include their names in the ballot after a court on Tuesday ruled that some of them were locked out irregularly when IEBC demanded that they submit 48,000 copies of identity cards of their endorsers.
This could delay the already late gazettement of candidates, which is in turn expected to pave the way for printing of ballot papers. Although he is believed to be a man who is thick-skinned, Chebukati has increasingly come under pressure over IEBC’s failure to publish the final voter register audited by KPMG or to clear the air on whether the loopholes identified in the electoral process in 2017 have been addressed.
He is also expected to provide clarity on whether the agency has developed constitutionally compliant protocols for transmission of results from polling stations to the national tallying centre at Bomas, where he and the commission have now set up camp until the August election results are announced and a winner awarded his certificate.
Besides Raila’s ultimatum, Chebukati has also been under pressure from members of civil society organisations.
Nine organisations — Kenya Human Rights Commission, InformAction, Angaza Movement, Africa Centre for Open Governance (Africog), Muslim for Human Rights (Muhuri), International Commission of Jurists Kenya (ICJ-Kenya), Inuka Kenya, Midrift Network, Haki Yetu and Crawn Trust.
They have all gone to court alleging massive “inefficiencies, negligence and outright corruption” in procurement and other electoral management operations.
They have also questioned the credibility of the voters’ register and security of IEBC’s electronic systems among other issues.
The matter is still pending in court but time and tide do not appear to be waiting for Chebukati. Pressure continued to mount on him when a coalition for Independents Candidates gave the commission a week to clear the disqualified aspirants.
FreeKenya Movement was among petitioners that went to court challenging parts of the Elections (General) Regulations, 2012, which required persons seeking to vie for various electoral positions as independent candidates to supply copies of national identity cards of their supporters.
“We are reminding IEBC that the court pronounced itself that these regulations broke several articles of the Constitution. If they insist that they want to keep defending this law, we shall just wait until the elections are over and nullify them through court and recommend that these officials mentioned above be surcharged for the losses,” said the chairperson of the organisation, Bob Njagi, while addressing the press at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi.
There have been reports that IEBC had already authorised Inform Lykos to start printing the presidential ballots. Should the independent aspirants succeed in their quest to be on the ballot, the agency will have to to dig deeper into its pockets to increase the size of the ballot papers to accommodate the extra candidates.
FreeKenya Movement has also called for Chebukati’s resignation, claiming they have lost “all the faith and confidence” in him to conduct a free and fair election.
Two other disqualified presidential aspirants, Reuben Kigame and Dr Ekuru Aukot have also called for the nullification of the nomination of the four presidential candidates and demanded that the process starts afresh. All eyes will be on Chebaki today as he is expected to address some of these thorny issues when he holds a press conference at Bomas of Kenya today.
Reporting by Oliver Musembi, Bernice Mbugua and Wycliffe Kipsang