GENERAL ELECTION INTERESTS

Showdown looms as bigwigs scheme to control IEBC selection team

Politicians are scheming to control the panel with an eye on 2022 contest

In Summary
  • The race to control the panel is aimed at influencing the IEBC ahead of the 2022 polls.
  • Intrigues have already started playing out with the Parliamentary Service Commission and the Law Society of Kenya facing an acid test.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, Commissioner Prof. Abdi Guliye and Acting CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan when they isnpected the ongoing BBI Supporters verification exercise at the Bomas of Kenya on January 19, 2021.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, Commissioner Prof. Abdi Guliye and Acting CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan when they isnpected the ongoing BBI Supporters verification exercise at the Bomas of Kenya on January 19, 2021.
Image: IEBC

A battle is looming in Parliament as political bigwigs scheme to control the seven-member selection panel that will recruit four additional IEBC commissioners.

It has emerged that various agencies allocated slots in the recruitment panel would face a headache in settling on their nominees in what would expose deep-seated political interests.

The race to control the panel is aimed at influencing the IEBC ahead of the 2022 polls.

Intrigues have already started playing out with the Parliamentary Service Commission and the Law Society of Kenya facing an acid test.

LSK President Nelson Havi told the Star the council had picked Maurice Kiboye to sit in the IEBC selection panel.

However, the move was denounced by CEO Mercy Wambua.

Wambua said the nomination was "dubious, illegal and dead on arrival".

She said the nomination violated LSK's 2020 regulations.

“The council plans to sit on Wednesday to sort through the applications and settle on the nominee to forward to the intended selection panel. Any other purported single-handed nomination is not only irregular but also shameful," she told the Star.

Wambua said the council was not aware of the nomination by Havi and that "the nominee is going nowhere".

In Parliament, the PSC chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi will on Thursday hold a crucial meeting to discuss how the four slots will be shared out.

With the fours slots, Parliament has a simple majority, raising the stakes for the battle to control the team.

 Muturi who chairs the PSC panel on Tuesday declined to commit on the commission's criteria on picking its members to the IEBC selection panel.

“I am not at liberty to discuss this at this point in time,” Muturi told the Star in a text message.

Borabu MP Ben Momanyi, a commissioner to the PSC, told the Star that the commission does not expect a smooth sailing in settling on the four nominees given the current political landscape.

“We expect a lot of challenges that would require a lot of guidance from the House leadership,” the Wiper lawmaker said.

The MP said the commission is faced with a tough task that would require a delicate balancing act to avoid unnecessary squabbling.

“Nevertheless, we shall come up with a decision by Thursday,” he said.

Members of the commission include Naomi Shaban (Taveta MP), George Khaniri (Vihiga Senator), Betty Mugo (nominated), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi MP), Adan Keynan (Eldas) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho Senator).

Others are Rachel Ameso and Samwel Chepkonga who represent the public in the  commission.

However, political allegiance is expected to play out as the commissioners get down to business to pick their nominees with key political players keen in using their allies to to influence the control of the panel.

Deputy President William Ruto enjoys the allegiance of Jumwa, Cheruiyot and Shaban.

Ameso and Chepkonga were previously associated with the Ruto's camp although it is not clear how they will align themselves.

However, with the grip of the handshake facing a litmus test in the commission, the two may be roped into the handshake team alongside Khaniri, Mugo and Keynan to deny the DP a say.

In October last year, MPs had opened the window for Uhuru and Raila to dominate the IEBC selection panel after they passed the IEBC (Amendment) (No 3) Bill 2019, which handed PSC a majority of the slots in the seven-member team.

However, emerging political realignment in the country appears to favour the DP in the battle to control the selection panel unless the President and his handshake partner cross ranks.

Once the President picks names from a list presented by the selection panel, he will forward them to Parliament where the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee is also controlled by Uhuru and Raila.

This would be in case the handshake holds despite claims by Raila's men that the system and some of Uhuru's allies are plotting to betray him.

The committee will vet the nominees and present a report to the House for debate and consideration.

The LSK and the Inter-religious Council of Kenya are the other bodies that will nominate members to the panel.

But with only three slots between them, they will be mere passengers in the IEBC selection team.

The nominating institutions have until Wednesday—end of seven days provided—to submit to the PSC the names of their representatives.

The commission will then vet the list to ensure compliance and forward the names to the President for subsequent appointment and gazettement.

The PSC has at most 14 days to submit the seven names to the President.

The Independent Electoral Commission Act, 2011 subparagraph (8), whenever a vacancy arises in the Commission, the President shall, within twenty-one days of the vacancy, with the approval of the National Assembly, appoint a Selection Panel.

The President had declared the vacancies on April 14. This means that the panel should have been appointed and gazetted before or by May 5.

The IEBC (amendment) Act, 2020 gives the nominating institutions seven days upon declaration of a vacancy.

“The respective nominating bodies under subparagraph (2)(b) and (c) shall, within seven days of the declaration of a vacancy in the office of the chairperson or member of the Commission, submit the names of their nominees to the Parliamentary Service Commission for transmission to the President for appointment,” reads paragraph 3.

During the selection of the 2016 panel that recruited IEBC commissioners, the PSC had brokered a political deal that saw political parties play a role in arriving at the four representatives of the commission to the then nine-member team.

The 2016 panel was composed of lawyers Evans Monari and Mary Karen Kigen for Jubilee while former judge Tom Mbaluto and Ogla Chepkemboi Karani represented the interests of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy.

There were also five other politically-neutral members, mainly from the clergy, who were appointed following the Jubilee-CORD deal to end street protests against the Hassan team.

They were Peter Karanja, the then general secretary of National Council of Churches of Kenya, Abdulghafur El Busaidy (Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims) and David Oginde (Evangelical Alliance of Kenya Bishops).

Others were Mohan Lumba, a medical doctor who doubles as vice chairman of the Hindu Council of Kenya, and Bernadette Musundi from the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Justice committees of Senate and National Assembly– dominated by Uhuru and Raila’s allies—shepherded the IEBC (amendment) Bill, 2019 that reduced the number of the selection panel.

MPs cut down the dominance of the churches in the selection panel from four to just two, handing Parliament a sweeping role in determining the next crop of IEBC commissioners.

PSC is expected to hammer selection criteria that would include major political factions including  Ruto's Tangatanga team as well as the one Kenya alliance.

The one Kenya alliance comprises Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula.

-Edited by SKanyara