Inside Politics

Big hurdle as deadline looms for State House race hopefuls

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022 07:45 | By
IEBC chair Wafula Chebukati with Empowerment and Liberation Party flag-bearer Grita Muthoni at the Bomas of Kenya during a meeting with presidential candidates. PHOTO/Kenna Claude

The dreams of some presidential aspirants could come to an abrupt end today if they fail to submit 48,000 signatures to the electoral commission, which has set midnight as the deadline for them to comply before they can be cleared to vie.

Already, fringe and independent aspirants have accused the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of imposing restrictive and punitive requirements to bar them from exercising their constitutional right, to seek the high office during the August polls.

Eleven candidates who failed to meet last week’s deadline for naming running mates have been disqualified, whittling down the number of those seeking to be elected president from a high of 47.

The tough conditions appear aimed at reducing the high number of fringe candidates who have expressed interest in the presidency.

Block majority

Questions have been asked in the past about how the presidential ballot paper would have looked like with over 50 hopefuls on it.

However, the rules being enforced by the electoral commission has started reducing the numbers. For instance, in the first presidential election of 2017, only two candidates - President Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival at the time Raila Odinga—had more than 48,000 votes.

This time round, the President has thrown his support behind Raila, who has picked Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate in the Azimio-One Kenya Coalition. They will face off with Deputy President William Ruto, whose running mate is Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua. It is still not clear if Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka will be on the ballot.

Opinion polls have ranked him as the third most preferred candidate, but at two per cent support compared to Raila’s 39 per cent and Ruto’s 35 per cent.

Now, some hopefuls, led by the President of the Caucus of the Independent Candidates in Kenya; Nazlin Umar, have poked holes into the requirement that all presidential aspirants submit signatures from their supporters, accompanied by copies of the Identity Cards of registered voters from at least 24 counties.

Each aspirant is expected to present 2,000 such IDs from each county, meaning that they have to collect the 48,000 documents by midnight tonight. That is more than the number of votes some of the fringe candidates got in the last General Election.

According to Umar, however, the requirement to submit the ID copies amounts to a breach of the Data Protection Act as it will interfere with the privacy of citizens.

“IEBC seems to be hell-bent to lock out some of the independent aspirants. The whole thing is a scam. I will be suing IEBC for damages. IEBC has hatched a plot to block a majority of the Independent aspirants,” she alleged.

She said  she will be presenting the documents today: “I have collected more than 48,000 signatures which I will present to the IEBC. I hope they will not create another hurdle for me.”.

Ford Asili presidential aspirant Njeru Kathangu said government institutions and systems are placing hurdles on its citizens, especially those seeking elective positions.

Hostile environment

Kathangu charged that while some aspirants were genuinely seeking the highest office in the land, some were using unscrupulous means to get the copies of IDs. This, he argued, amounts to a breach of data protection and confidentiality laws.

“We don’t know if the copies of IDs will be used for rigging,” said Kathangu.

Presidential Independent aspirant Dorothy Kemunto also argued that the election regulations were punitive.

“We feel that the law is draconian. The electoral commission did not  conduct civic education,” she said.

Asked if she will be able to submit the 48,000 signatures accompanied by the copies of IDs, Kemunto said that it would be premature to establish whether she would beat the deadline or not.

“We are operating in a hostile environment. There are some communities that are patriarchal and do not allow women to collect signatures. We have, however, changed the teams to ensure that we get the requisite numbers,” she said.

Under Regulation 18 of the Election (General) Regulations, a person delivering an application for nomination under regulation 16 or 17 shall at least five days to the day fixed for nomination, deliver to the Commission a list bearing the names, respective signatures, identity card or passport numbers of at least 2,000 voters registered in each of a majority of the counties.

More litigation

The regulations further state that the sheets of paper delivered under this regulation shall be serially numbered, in type-script, the wording at the top of Form 12 and be accompanied by copies of the identification document of the voters.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati has maintained that the electoral commission timelines cannot be extended as doing so would attract more litigation against the commission.

“The commission is working within the law. These regulations were passed in 2017 and unless the same are amended in Parliament, we cannot work outside the law,” said Chebukati when he met the aspirants at Bomas on Monday.

Once the names of the nominees are received, the commission will forward them to institutions responsible for matters related to Chapter Six of the Constitution, which provides guidelines on Leadership and Integrity.  Among the institutions to receive the list are the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Office of the Director of Public Prosecution for purposes of establishing candidates’ standing on moral and ethical requirements.

Front runners in the race - Raila and Ruto - are expected to have little or no challenge collecting the signatures and copies of IDs.

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