2022 polls: Independents lament tough electoral rules on IDs, signatures

Independent candidates

Independent Candidates Forum of Kenya members hold hands in solidarity at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi on Wednesday last week. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • For governors, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission expects them submit at least 500 signatures
  • A total of 7,292 Kenyans have been cleared to contest as independent candidates, awaiting IEBC’s final clearance on whether they will be on the ballot.

A new requirement by the electoral agency for independent candidates to make copies of identity cards as proof of consent by Kenyans to be listed as their supporters, stands in the way of the dozens of party-less candidates eyeing different seats in the August 9 election.

While the requirement only applies to party candidates for president, independent candidates running for all elective seats have to prove that they indeed met and sought the approval of any person they list as a supporter.

For presidential hopefuls, independent candidates are required to collect 48,000 signatures—at least 2,000 from at least 24 of the 47 counties—with the electoral team requiring them to make a copy of the identity cards as proof of consent.

For governors, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) expects them to submit at least 500 signatures, while senators require at least 2,000. Members of Parliament have to submit 1,000 signatures, while those seeking county assembly seats require 500 signatures.

“Independent candidates must produce an electronic version and the duly filled list of supporters, which must be accompanied by copies of the identity cards of the supporters,” the IEBC said.

Party-less aspirants

Through the Independent Candidates’ Forum, a lobby group to fight for the rights of the party-less aspirants, the hopefuls said the requirement had become a huge stumbling block in their quest for election.

While the requirement to get the signatures was hard enough, the aspirants said, requiring them to have copies of the identity cards was even worse.

“We ... are expressing our total dissatisfaction with the IEBC requirement that we collect and make copies of ID cards ... validating our nomination. We wish to categorically state that this requirement is discriminatory, untimely, punitive, expensive, and intrusive to citizen privacy and ... were not enforced in previous elections,” said Ms Esther Thairu, who chairs the lobby group.

Gospel singer Reuben Kigame, who wants to run for President as an independent, said IEBC has not conducted any civic education on the ID requirement.

ID collection

“We are here to ask the IEBC to remove the obstacle of ID collection so that we can proceed with the signature procedure,” Mr Kigame said. He said IEBC had changed the rules midway.

“We also have checked with several candidates who vied for the various positions in 2013 and 2017 and they have confirmed that this requirement was not enforced then. In addition, during the collection of signatures for the recent BBI [Building Bridges Initiative] process, this was not a requirement. Unless this matter is dealt with, we are convinced that IEBC will be giving undue advantage to government-sponsored candidates such as those in Azimio who have access to state funding and human resources,” Ms Thairu said.

The independent candidates urged Mr Chebukati to postpone the requirement for the coming election, saying it will level the playing field.

A total of 7,292 Kenyans have been cleared to contest as independent candidates, awaiting IEBC’s final clearance on whether they will be on the ballot.

Of these, 47 want to run for President, 107 for governor, 151 for Senate, 112 for woman representative, 973 for MP, and a staggering 5,902 for MCA seat.

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