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Electoral reforms in ODM timely, but why leave out IEBC?

The changes being spearheaded in ODM are no doubt the cornerstone of much-needed electoral reforms nationwide.

In Summary

• The main parties, ruling and opposition, are at the forefront of pushing for a constitutional review process.

• This shall culminate in a referendum to be presided yet again by a non-reformed and blotted IEBC

ODM leader Raila Odinga during the swearing in of NEC and NDC officials at Chungwa house, Nairobi on August 13, 2020.
ODM leader Raila Odinga during the swearing in of NEC and NDC officials at Chungwa house, Nairobi on August 13, 2020.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

Raila Odinga's ODM party has moved to reform its Electoral Management Body, an announcement that was a welcome development in the country’s political process.

There are currently over 80 registered parties in Kenya, according to the Registrar of Political Parties.

Despite the high number, though registered, few parties can claim to have functional  offices at the head office and even at the county level (if they exist at all). Most of them lack the countrywide reach.

 

Other than complying with the Political Parties Act, they should also have an updated member’s register. This ideally should be open for scrutiny by relevant stakeholders. The bona fide party members are the only ones legally permitted to participate in the primaries to nominate their candidates to particiate in elections.

Since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1992, there is anecdotal evidence that the electoral processes of all main parties have been anything but shambolic.

There have been situations where nomination certificates for various seats ranging from MCAs, MPs, woman representative, senators to governors have been awarded to losers. This manipulation of electoral outcomes is particularly evident in the parties’ strongholds. There are explicit examples that stand out such as the Jubilee Party in Mt Kenya and ODM in Nyanza..

The above scenario has been replicated at successive general elections since 1997. The promulgation of the  2010 Constitution did little to address this problem.

The changes being spearheaded in ODM are no doubt the cornerstone of much-needed electoral reforms nationwide.

What intrigues many political players is why the mainstream parties have remained reluctant in reforming the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission. This is despite the IEBC having been declared complicit in non-adherence to the Constitution and the law by the Supreme Court when it annulled the 2017 presidential election.

The main political parties, both ruling and opposition, are currently at the forefront of pushing for a constitutional review process. This shall culminate in a referendum to be presided yet again by a non- reformed and blotted IEBC!

 

To overcome these shortcomings in the political architecture, there are a number of steps that urgently need to be taken.

First, is the immediate reconstitution of the entire IEBC. This will give time ahead of the 2022 General Election to institute the required reform processes within the institution and the wider body politic.

Second is to make it mandatory for all parties to submit to the Registrar their nomination rules and regulations. That way, they shall be held accountable for any violations. This shall culminate in barring candidates who violate these rules from participating in the elections.

Third, parties should submit their list of officials to preside over elections and nominees for scrutiny to enable members make informed decisions.

Fourth, the political party’s tribunal should establish clear time guidelines in resolving disputes arising from nominations.

Fifth, there is need for civic education by the reformed IEBC and the Registrar nationwide. This would encourage citizens to participate in the electoral process as this has a major impact on their daily lives.

In conclusion, the entire electoral process requires a multi-pronged approach by all stakeholders. For citizens to remain partisan and then later complain about poor governance is a clear abdication of civic responsibility, which is enshrined in the Constitution.

Dr Njau Gitu practices as a governance, policy and strategy adviser. [email protected] @GNjauGitu