DEGREE OR NOT?

IEBC wants Parliament to set candidate's academic qualifications

Constitution only anticipates some level of educational standards

In Summary
  • The bills are sponsored by Senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Ledama Ole Kina (Narok).
  • In the second bill, Ole Kina proposes retention of degrees for MP candidates but lowers the threshold to KCSE certificates for MCAs.
IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati during an engagement forum by IEBC and faith-based organisations at Hermosa Gardens on September 22
DEGREE OR NOT? IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati during an engagement forum by IEBC and faith-based organisations at Hermosa Gardens on September 22
Image: MERCY MUMO

The electoral agency now wants Parliament to prescribe levels of educational qualifications and standard for candidates eyeing political offices.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission says the Constitution only anticipates some level of educational qualification and standards.

“What this level of education would be was left to Parliament,” chairman Wafula Chebukati said in documents sent to Parliament.

The commission was giving its views on two bills seeking to amend the Elections Act by removal of the controversial requirement for a university degree for all those eyeing political seats in 2022.

The twin Elections (Amendment) Bill are before the Senate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chaired by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni. The panel is currently conducting public participation.

The bills are sponsored by Senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Ledama Ole Kina (Narok).

Article 99 (1) (b) of the Constitution states a person is eligible for election as a Member of Parliament if the person satisfies any educational, moral and ethical requirements prescribed by the Constitution or by an Act of Parliament.

Further, Article 193 (1) states that a person is eligible for election as a member of a county assembly if the person satisfies any educational, moral and ethical requirements prescribed by Constitution or an Act of Parliament.

The Act, which prescribes a mandatory degree for all candidates, including MCA aspirants, has triggered mixed reactions with the ward reps, MPs and aspirants rejecting the provision.

Last Friday, the High Court declared unconstitutional Section 22 of the Elections Act that requires MCA aspirants to have a university degree.

However, Chebukati appears to disagree with the ruling, saying that Parliament should prescribe the qualifications and standards to uphold the tenets of the constitution.

In Murkomen’s bill, the legislator has proposed scrapping of the educational requirement. He wants any person who knows how to read and write, be allowed to run for political office.

The commission opposes the bill saying it contradicts the Constitution which stipulates candidates contesting in an election should satisfy educational requirements.

“The proposal mirrors the provisions for ‘Language Tests’ under the now repealed National Assembly and Presidential Elections (Act).

"The Act required every person desirous of standing as a candidate at a parliamentary election to apply to the electoral commission for a proficiency test in English and Swahili,” he said.

“Following this the new constitution dispensation Cap 7 was repealed and the Election Act enacted to respond to the provisions of the constitution,” he added.

In the second bill, Ole Kina proposes retention of degrees for MP candidates but lowers the threshold to KCSE certificates for MCAs.

Chebukati said the proposals appears to suggest that the nature and functions performed by the National Assembly and the Senate require higher education qualifications, skills and wider exposure than the county assembly.

“This is an argument that would cut across all elective positions. This raises the question of the bill being discriminatory especially since both Parliament and county assembly play similar roles,” he observed.

Chebukati also gave the commission’s stand on another Elections (Amendment) bill (Senate Bill NO 48 of 2021) that seeks to allow politicians to use their nicknames on ballot papers.

He said the bill needs to be reviewed to remove ambiguities.

The chairman said the proposal seeks to ensure that a voter easily identifies his/her preferred candidate on the ballot.

The Election Act 2011, nonetheless, provides that the names on the ballot paper shall be as they appear on a person’s identification document being either the national identification card or Kenyan passport.

“The commission notes that this proposal needs to be reviewed further as it is not practically achievable,” IEBC submitted.

“There will be need to approve the popular names for candidates whether political party aspirants or independent candidates to avoid multiplicity of popular names,” IEBC observed.

The commission, however, warns that there is a possibility of submission of obscene, offensive or duplicate names for the same electoral seats.

On placement of popular names in the ballot paper, IEBC argues regulation 51 (6) (a) of the elections (general) regulations, 2012 provides for names to appear in alphabetical order of surnames

“There is need for clarity on the manner and order the popular name (s) is to appear in the ballot paper as this provision goes against the prescriptions provided by law,” Chebukati said.

“For good electoral order there is need for clarity on what constitutes a name that is not obscene, offensive or unpalatable and what mechanisms are put in place in the event of rejection of the popular name,” he added.

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)