Need to hasten IEBC revival in bipartisan talks

Kalonzo Musyoka

National Dialogue Committee co-chairpersons Kalonzo Musyoka (left) representing the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party and Kimani Ichung’wah  for the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance during the resumption of the bipartisan talks at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi in early August. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

With the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) being fronted as a major talking point for the yet-to-begin bipartisan talks, the group led by Kalonzo Musyoka and Kimani Ichung’wah must move with speed to see the matter settled.

The seven positions of chairperson, vice-chairperson and five commissioners fell vacant on January 17, upon the expiry of the terms of chairperson Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye. Earlier, vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera and commissioners Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang’aya had resigned and commissioner Irene Masit was removed from office by the recommendation of a tribunal formed to investigate her.

IEBC comprises the chairperson at the helm, the vice-chairperson, and five other commissioners. It is supported by the secretariat, under the secretary/CEO. Its functions include conducting referenda and elections; continuous registration of voters; continuous revision of the Register of Voters and delimitation of constituency and ward boundaries.

Revision of the voter register, which includes the listing of new voters and transfers of voters’ polling stations, was suspended last year in preparation for the August general election. The pending by-elections cannot be conducted yet the deadline, 90 days upon declaration of a vacancy in an elective post.

IEBC is supposed to review the names and boundaries of constituencies and wards at intervals of not less than eight years and not more than 12, completed at least one year before a general election. With the last review in March 2012, IEBC has until March to conclude the delimitation of boundaries.

Immediately contested

In January, President William Ruto assented to the IEBC (Amendment) Bill 2022. That expanded the IEBC reconstitution panel to include two slots each for the Parliamentary Service Commission and the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya and one each for the Public Service Commission, the Political Parties Liaison Committee and Law Society of Kenya.

The new law was immediately contested by the opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, leading to its becoming an agenda for bipartisan talks. The process was slowed down by the collapse of the first round of the talks, co-chaired by Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and Tharaka MP George Murugara. But the IEBC selection panel, chaired by Dr Nelson Makanda, said the selection of commissioners was ongoing in the background.

The risk of a constitutional crisis should the paralysis of the electoral body persist beyond the deadlines is real. At the moment, IEBC can only carry out administrative functions under the secretariat.

The fate of critical functions of IEBC is in the hands of the bipartisan talks. President Ruto and Azimio supremo Raila Odinga should task their respective teams to hasten the reconstitution of IEBC. That will pave the way for the IEBC selection panel, hence the selection of electoral commissioners.

Mr Mutiga is a consulting urban planner. [email protected].