Critical week for State House hopefuls as list of supporters checked

Independent Candidates Forum of Kenya members

Independent Candidates Forum of Kenya members hold hands in solidarity after addressing journalists at the IEBC head office in Anniversary Towers, Nairobi, on May 4. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

This is a defining week for those seeking to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, with 77 days left before the August 9 General Election.

Today, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will begin verifying lists of supporters submitted by presidential aspirants, a process intended to eliminate jokers, and which ends on Wednesday.

To vie for president through a party or as an independent candidate, an aspirant must submit an electronic version and a duly filled list of at least 2,000 supporters from each of at least 24 counties. The IEBC also requires that, a list of at least 48,000 registered voters be submitted with copies of their identification documents.

All 55 presidential aspirants —14 sponsored by political parties, including Deputy President William Ruto, Mr Raila Odinga, the sole aspirant fielded by a coalition political party, and 40 independents—must comply with this requirement, among others, to get clearance.

At this point, it will become clear whether Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who has protested that he was overlooked when Mr Odinga chose his running mate, will abandon the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party for a solo presidential run.

The choice of Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as Mr Odinga’s running mate has annoyed Mr Musyoka, who believes he is entitled to the role that he held during Mr Odinga’s last two presidential bids, especially after shelving his own presidential ambitions to support the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader’s candidacy.

However, the fate of Mr Musyoka’s presidential bid on a Wiper ticket, which faces legal hurdles because of the pre-election coalition agreement binding the party to Azimio, will be determined during presidential nominations by the IEBC scheduled for Monday, May 30, to Friday, June 10.

The caveat on presidential candidate supporters is likely to whittle down the number of independent aspirants, particularly as some had initially protested the requirement to supply copies of IDs of their backers.

The high number of presidential hopefuls has implications for the General Election, as the death of anyone cleared to run would force the polls to be postponed. This explains why all presidential candidates are provided with round-the-clock state security.

Additionally, IEBC has directed presidential aspirants and their deputies who hold degrees from foreign universities that they must obtain recognition and equation of their academic qualifications from the Commission for University Education before registering as candidates—a requirement that will also apply to those vying for governor and their running mates.

Today, IEBC has planned a pre-nomination meeting with all presidential aspirants or their authorised representatives at the Bomas of Kenya from 8am, chairman Wafula Chebukati announced last Wednesday.

The meeting is to brief them on the requirements and procedures for registration of candidates. Aspirants for other elective positions will be informed of the dates for pre-nomination meetings by their respective returning officers. Nominations for the Senate and National Assembly elections begin on May 30.

Nominations for ward representative polls will run from June 2 to 10, Woman Rep from June 3 to 6 and governors from June 7 to 10.

The official election campaign period also runs from May 30 to Saturday, August 6, three days before polling day. Returning officers will register candidates for elective seats between May 29 and June 7. Before enlisting, returning officers will hold pre-nomination meetings with aspirants to, among other things, brief them on the requirements and procedures.

Other key timelines this week include a review of handover and takeover procedures for election result forms at the constituency, county and national levels. This will be from May 27 to June 16.

Review of procedures for managing poll materials during petitions is planned for Friday, May 27, to Saturday, June 25 while review of Polling Station Diary to incorporate all administrative forms will be from May 27 to June 16.

IEBC election operation plans also show that, from Friday, it will share with political parties a list of candidates approved for appointment as election officials, including presiding officers, deputy presiding officers and clerks.

Failure to obey this requirement for full disclosure of election officials to parties nearly plunged the country into a political crisis on the eve of the 2017 repeat presidential polls.

The rerun was prompted by the nullification of President Kenyatta’s re-election by the Supreme Court following a successful petition by his main challenger, Mr Odinga. But on the eve of the October 26 repeat presidential poll, High Court Judge George Odunga threw a spanner in the works by ruling that the appointments of 290 returning officers and their deputies were illegal.

Regulation 3 of the Elections (General) Regulations, 2012, states: “The commission shall appoint a constituency returning officer for each constituency and may appoint such number of deputy constituency returning officers for each constituency as it may consider necessary.”

“Prior to appointment under paragraph (1), the commission shall provide the list of persons proposed for appointment to political parties and independent candidates at least fourteen days prior to the proposed date of appointment to enable them make any representations.”

Justice Odunga rejected the IEBC’s contention that it had complied with the regulation on full disclosure to parties during the August 8, 2017 General Election and that it was no longer necessary to comply with it in the fresh presidential election.

“The mere fact that Regulation 3 had been complied with during the General Election did not necessarily mean that the Constituency Returning Officers (CROs) and the Deputy Returning Officers (DCROs) were thereby permanently eligible for those positions since in between events might have happened that rendered the said officers’ status as CRO and DCROs no longer tenable,” Justice Odunga said.

“As far back as September 21, 2017, [IEBC] was aware that the fresh elections would be conducted on October 26, 2017. Instead of proceeding to submit the list of the proposed CROs and the DCROs to the political parties, the respondent waited until October 9, 2017 to prepare the gazette notice which was eventually published on October 12, 2017.”