Too many cases risk hampering IEBC work
It is worrying that with three days to the elections, IEBC is still being dragged to court, with various aggrieved parties seeking remedies for the failures of omission or commission blamed on the electoral agency.
At this time, ideally, the electoral commission should be focused on delivering a credible election but there are too many hurdles that are taking attention away from this core responsibility.
Kenyans had five years to raise objections against the commission and its leadership and the fact that for instance, there is a petition seeking the removal of the chairman should be cause for worry.
The chairman, by law, is the presidential returning officer. In the event that the court agrees with the petitioners and he is removed on Monday, then Tuesday’s election will be null and void because there will be no returning officer.
Even where courts entertain cases related to elections, it would be prudent, in future, to have a cut-off point beyond which all election-related matters should be raised in the petition period. That way, the commission will have a free hand, as an independent institution, to conduct elections. Where it fails, it should be held to account.
As it is, there are too many court rulings on how elections should be handled. Whereas all are aimed at improving systems and transparency, over-regulating the commission could turn out to be counter-productive, since it will be juggling too many balls at a time when it should be focused on conducting elections.
Kenya’s elections are high-stakes competitions. That goes without saying. This, in turn, raises expectations about the referee. This is granted. However, stakeholders should anticipate various scenarios in good time and seek the intervention of courts and Parliament so that elections stop being fire-fighting undertakings.
Public institutions should also feel obligated to make the work of the commission easier by supporting rather than isolating it. For instance, in future, it would be prudent for MPs to allocate a sufficient budget for the procurement of various materials as well as for exigencies, such as yesterday’s ruling requiring the commission to print and distribute physical copies of voters’ registers to every polling station.
The ultimate aim of litigation ought to be to empower IEBC to discharge its mandate. However, having said that, it behoves the commission to stick to the law and the Constitution to ensure it reduces its exposure to litigation and over-regulation. It is two-way traffic.