We should not wait until election year to fix IEBC
Every election in Kenya since 2007 has left the electoral body with mud on its face.
But lamentably, this has not offered political actors a reflective moment for the reforms needed in the body to ensure that the subsequent election will be more credible.
Supreme Court judges, in a landmark ruling, nullified the outcome of the presidential vote in 2017 over irregular vote tallying and results transmission, overturning President Uhuru Kenyatta’s initial re-election victory.
Although his main challenger Raila Odinga boycotted the repeat election, saying that he could not trust Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which he blamed for bungling elections, no serious reforms on IEBC followed.
As soon as the election is settled in Kenya, everything about the IEBC is forgotten.
One of the of the glaring issues about IEBC is that some commissioners are appointed too close to the election.
In the 2022 election, four commissioners were appointed 11 months before election. In 2017, they were appointed seven months to the election and in 2013, 15 months before the election.
For effective operations, electoral body should be funded adequately and disbursement of funds be aligned to the electoral cycle. In previous elections, the bulk of the funding was provided late in the electoral cycle, and this might have affected activities that are conducted early in the electoral cycle such as voter education and procurement of election materials. The high number of rejected votes in this year’s election is attributable to low civic education.
Delay in disbursement of funds, may have affected activities such as printing of the ballot papers that saw IEBC postpone elections in some areas due to ballots mix-up in this year’s election.
The credibility IEBC has over the years been dented and a perception created in the public eyes that it cannot deliver a free, fair and credible election. IEBC has carried a battered image from four successive disputed presidential election outcomes.
Part of the problem has been the late amendments of electoral laws that interfere with electoral processes and timelines, thus affecting the planning and implementation of electoral activities. Legal reforms and amendments of electoral laws should be carried out at least two years to the election to allow adequate time for implementation.
Elections are the lifeblood of any democracy and the electoral system is particularly vital in shaping the success and sustainability of democratic outcomes. If we don’t get election right, we might not make any tangible progress. We should not forget that election provides us with a mechanism for peaceful and democratic rotation of leadership.
There is need to move away from making cosmetic reforms in the electoral body. Far reaching reforms of IEBC are required to rebuild the body, make it fit for purpose and enhance its independence and effectiveness to safeguard democracy in Kenya.
Equally important, recruitment of commissioners and staff should be done competitively, and those most qualified and adhere and commit to chapter six of the Constitution on leadership and integrity, accorded opportunities – to serve.
Also, public participation in the Commission’s activities especially in the recruitment and procurement of election materials should be applied, to enhance transparency and accountability.
There is also a need to adopt multi-stakeholders approach - and bring on board all actors. Election is too important to be left to politicians and IEBC alone
— The writer is a public policy analyst