Jubilee’s proposed election laws changes

Jubilee's proposed election laws changes

The proposed amendments to election laws could radically erode the powers of the electoral commission chairman and dilute the importance of electronic transmission of results.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has defended the intended changes as a logical solution to anomalies highlighted by the Supreme Court in annulling his August 8 re-election. But the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) has dismissed the amendments as illegal and vowed to challenge them.

Stakeholders and ordinary citizens have an opportunity of 10 days from Monday, October 2 to present their views before a select committee of parliament led by Baringo North MP, William Cheptumo, on proposed changes to the election laws.

Jubilee proposes to amend the election laws, to provide for concurrent electronic and manual transmission of results from the polling stations to the constituencies and national tallying centre. This, they say, will seal the loophole that NASA leader, Raila Odinga, used to successfully petition President Kenyatta’s win, since results from up to 11,000 polling stations had not transmitted electronically when Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairperson, Wafula Chebukati, declared the final tally.

According to the amendments, should there be any discrepancy between results transmitted electronically and manually, those relayed manually will prevail.

“We want every returning and presiding officer to physically present the election results forms at the national tallying center, that is the essence of the law,” said National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale.

The majority party in parliament is also trying to checkmate Odinga, by providing that results would not be invalidated, due to anomalies in results declaration forms. The opposition leader, in his petition, had cited lack of security features and inconsistencies in election documents, as a ground for invalidating the presidential poll outcome.

“The moment this bill is passed into law, it will be a tragedy of monumental proportion comparable to when we turned Kenyan into a de-jure one party state,” said Siaya Senator, James Orengo, when opposing the changes.

An audit of the results declaration forms ordered by the Supreme Court established anomalies in the documents, including inconsistencies in the figures entered by presiding and returning officers. Jubilee now claims that the anomalies were pre-meditated, through alleged collusion between some poll officials and NASA leaders. The election laws amendment bill proposes punitive measures for election officials who willfully fail to sign off or alter results declaration forms.

“What is the problem when we say that if a returning or presiding officer fails to sign the election results declaration forms s/he should be jailed for 5 years,” said President Kenyatta during a campaign rally in Busia County on Friday, September 29.

If parliament passes the bill, requirements for appointment to chair electoral commission will be altered, as well as the quorum in the commission’s decision making process. It will not be mandatory to be a lawyer for one to head IEBC if Jubilee has its way. In the event the chairperson is unable to execute his duties, the deputy will take over.

Should the chair and deputy be absent, commissioners will agree on who among them takes charge in an acting capacity, with these amendments triggered by apprehension that IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati could resign. Critics however claim these changes were pre-meditated, targeting Chebukati.

“I know there are some commissioners there who are hirelings of jubilee, but those who want to do good are thunderstruck,” added Mr. Orengo.

Parliament resumes its sittings in a fortnight, with Jubilee determined to push through the changes.

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Story By Francis Gachuri
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