The Wafula Chebukati-led IEBC has made a raft of proposals to seal endemic loopholes in an elaborate strategy to secure the 2022 presidential polls.
Plagued by systemic failures in election management over the years, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has come up with an action plan that is seen as key to redeeming its ragged image.
In the commission’s 2017 post-election evaluation report obtained exclusively by the Star, the IEBC proposes that to ensure proper poll preparations, commissioners must be in office at least two years to elections.
The electoral agency says where it is not possible to appoint commissioners two years to elections, their recruitment should be staggered to ensure their terms do not end at the same time.
“This would ensure continuity and institutional memory,” reads the IEBC report.
In 2017, commissioners were appointed seven months to the General Election and in 2013 they were appointed 15 months prior.
Following the bungled August 8 presidential election, the IEBC commissioners claimed they came into office to close to the polls and that former CEO Ezra Chiloba was running the show.
The blame game resulted in a bitter fallout between the commission and the secretariat headed by Chiloba.
The Supreme Court ruling that nullified the reelection of President Uhuru Kenyatta over irregularities and illegalities in the conduct of the polls blamed the secretariat for bungling the elections.
Now the commission says the late appointment of commissioners goes against international best practice as well as recommendations by the Johann Kriegler-led Independent Review Commission.
The Kriegler commission came up with sweeping electoral management proposals following the disputed 2007 general election that sparked widespread violence killing over 1,300 people and displacing thousands others.
“Considering the Kenyan electoral cycle is five years, ideally commissioners should be appointed to be in office the entire electoral cycle; where not possible, they should be in office at least two years to the General Election date,” the IEBC says.
The agency says the country must ensure appointment of new commissioners or replacement of the four who quit after the 2017 polls is done by August next year.
Only Chebukati, Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye are remaining in office as commissioners after the dramatic exit of Roselyn Akombe, vice chairperson Consolata Nkatha, Margret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat.
In its self-assessment that largely shifts blame on the mismanagement of the 2017 polls to other stakeholders, the IEBC says it has learned from past mistakes and would build on the challenges to deliver credible polls in 2022.
It says electoral law changes should be completed two years to the next election to allow adequate time for implementation.
Following a political standoff pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubile Party and Nasa chief Raila Odinga, amid claims of a plot to rig the 2017 presidential polls, a raft of laws and regulations were passed by Parliament as late as April that year.
The political class built consensus and enacted the Electoral Laws (amendment) Act 2017 and the Election Technology Regulations 2017.
The legal reforms sought to address gaps and ambiguities in the law which posed challenges in the effective management of the 2013 General Election.
“The late amendments of electoral laws for the August 8, 2017 General Election interfered with electoral timelines thus affecting the planning and implementation of electoral activities. This was also witnessed during the 2013 General Election,” the IEBC report says.
One its radical proposals is a two-tier General Election, so that national and county elections are conducted on different dates to avoid fatigue among election officials.
“The conduct of six elections in one day was reported by poll officials to affect the counting and tallying process. These processes were reported to take long. Some of the errors that occurred were attributed to fatigue among poll officials. Similar observations were made in the 2013 General Election,” the commission says.
However, for the country to introduce a two-tier election regime, Parliament must first amend the Constitution to separate presidential elections from other polls.
According to the IEBC, the elections of president and MPs – being national elections – could be held on a different day from those of governor and MCAs.
“An election of the president shall be held on the same day as a general election of Members of Parliament, being the second Tuesday in August, in every fifth year,” reads Article 136(2) (b) of the Constitution.
Article 180 (1) provides that the election of governor shall be held on the same day as a general election of Members of Parliament.
The IEBC is also pushing for the extension of the deadline for the determination of presidential election petitions “to allow more realistic time for the preparation of cases, results publication and full due process in court, including possibility of recount.”
The current law provides for seven days within which a presidential petition must be lodged at the Supreme Court after the declaration of official presidential results by the IEBC and 14 days for the hearing and determination.
The electoral commission has also proposed that the suspended Campaign Financing Act 2013 be effected.
The act provides for expenditure limits for political parties and candidates for a General Election.
The National Assembly has not enacted the Campaign Financing Regulations 2016 that were supposed to operationalise the expenditure limits.
The IEBC says it wants a Commission Fund established to ensure seamless flow of funds to run electoral activities.
“Disbursement of bulk of electoral funding during the last year in the electoral cycle does not do justice to electoral planning,” IEBC says.
The commission conducted the post-election evaluation exercise as an integral component of an electoral cycle and a best practice.
This post-election evaluation sought to make a critical assessment of the conduct of the 8th August 2017 General Election and the 26th October 2017 Fresh Presidential Election.