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On your marks, get set… Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to name polls date

Friday, January 14th, 2022 02:00 | By
IEBC chair Wafula Chebukati with fellow commissioners address the press on elections preparedness at Lake Naivasha Resort recently. Photo/PD/KIRERA MWITI

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will next week blow the kick off whistle, officially driving the country into an election mode with gazettement of August 9 as the official election date.

IEBC’s move will officially set the stage for a bruising, bare-knuckled presidential campaign in which Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga have emerged as front-runners.

Reliable sources within the electoral body disclosed that chairman Wafula Chebukati will on January 19, 2022, gazette this year’s election date and announce the official start of the campaign period, effectively placing all presidential, parliamentary, governor and ward aspirants and their activities under its watch.

“The commission will be undertaking its statutory obligation of gazetting the election date on January 19, 2021, which is next week.

That has been confirmed and the election date is also known because it’s guided by the Constitution,” a highly-placed source at the Anniversary Towers-based commission disclosed.

Campaign timelines 

Though politicians have already plunged the country into a campaign mode, the gazettement, according to experts, officially sets the stage for intense lobbying as aspirants, including state officers who will be leaving office to pursue political ambitions, and parties embark on marketing themselves ahead of party primaries as well as courting one another to form coalitions.

“What the gazettement of the election date means, is that it sets the official campaign timelines and aspirants will now focus on wooing voters and drumming up support for their respective political parties especially now that there is a deadline of April when they are supposed to deposit their coalition and merger agreements with the Registrar of Political Parties,” former IEBC deputy chairperson Lilian Mahiri-Zaja told People Daily in a telephone interview.

Reached for comment, Chebukati could only say that IEBC was strictly working within its timelines and promised to make a major announcement next week.

“Next week is just few days ahead of us. Why don’t you wait until when the time reaches?” he said.

The Political Parties Amendment Bill, 2021, currently before the Senate where it’s expected to pass, reduces the period within which political parties can form coalitions to four months to elections, which will be April 9, down from 12 months.

The decision has been criticised by Ruto’s allies who see it as a plot to favour the Raila-led Azimio La Umoja movement by forcing competitors to make quick decisions on coalitions which may jeopardise relations with potential partners.

Already, Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Raila of Azimio La Umoja have been confirmed as aspirants.

Amani National Congress boss Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Senators Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma) and Gideon Moi (Baringo) who coalesce around the One Kenya Alliance (OKA), though they have been endorsed by their respective parties as presidential candidates, are yet to decide on their flag-bearer.

The OKA outfit has been grappling with mistrust among the principals over their loyalty to either Ruto or Raila.

IEBC has been racing against time to enhance election-related laws by among, other things, creating an alternative means of transmitting presidential results to avert a repeat of the controversial 2017 poll that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta’s August 9 victory overturned over how the process was handled.

The commission has proposed a raft of amendments to the Elections Act that could see the electoral body have “contemporary mechanisms for identification of voters and transmission of the elections results” at its disposal, particularly Section 39 that focuses on the handling of Form 34A which the Supreme Court concluded should be used to declare the presidential election results.

The idea is to have Form 34A carefully handled by the Presiding Officers at the polling stations and signed by all agents before being relayed directly to the national tallying centre in form of an image to the chairman for verification if they correspond with the physical results delivered by the Constituency Returning Officers.

Election offences

Besides the setting of the dates, which is a statutory obligation and changing the law, IEBC will start enforcing the Election Offences Act, 2015, as well as bring into force the Electoral Code of Conduct which guides the operations of political parties and candidates during elections, mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifestos, processions, among other general issues.

Some of the offences, according to the Elections Offences Act, include directly or indirectly influencing or threatening to use any force, violence including sexual violence, restraint, material or physical injury, harmful cultural practices, damage or loss, or use of any fraudulent device, trick or deception to induce or compel a person to vote or not to vote for a particular candidate or political party.

Other offences are use of threatening language, abusive or insulting or engaging in any kind of action which may advocate hatred, incite violence or influence voters on grounds of ethnicity, race, religion, gender or any other ground of discrimination.

Already, several politicians, notably Senators Mithika Linturi (Meru) who has already been charged and Aron Cheruiyot (Kericho) have rattled the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji after they told Ruto supporters in the Rift Valley to banish people who are not backing the second in command’s presidential bid.

Just last week, controversial televangelist and real estate dealer David Ngare, popularly known as Gakuyo, used hateful words against a female nominated Member of County Assembly during a county function in Thika in what has been linked to Thika politics where Ngare wants to be MP.

A video of the bishop hurling unprintable words, which he made in the Kikuyu dialect, has been doing rounds on social media. His words, which have sparked demonstrations from women in Thika, are yet to catch the eye of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC).

Yesterday, EACC chief executive Twalib Mbarak whose commission is charged with monitoring public officers engaging in campaigns while still in office, said once IEBC gazettes the election date, the commission will move to execute its mandate by dealing with those who breach ethics as far as politics and campaigns are concerned.

“We have been waiting for IEBC to gazette the official election and campaign dates.

That is when we will move to deal with public officers who will be indulging in campaigns while still in office, whether as aspirants or campaigning for their preferred candidates.

We are also waiting for aspirants to apply for clearance from us and we will vet and scrutinise the background of each one of the candidates, before making the findings public so that members of the public will make a decision on who to vote for,” Twalib said.

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