IEBC wants Senate to review thorny clauses in parties’ bill

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati who has said that some of the timelines in the the controversial Political Parties (Amendment) Bill need to be reviewed.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

The electoral agency wants the Senate to amend the controversial Political Parties (Amendment) Bill passed by the National Assembly earlier this month, saying it interferes with key election timelines and its constitutional functions.

In a memorandum to the Senate, which debates the bill in a special sitting today and tomorrow, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati said some of the timelines in the bill need to be reviewed.

Mr Chebukati rejected Clause 9 of the bill, which seeks to have parties seeking to form a coalition to submit their agreement to the Registrar of Political Parties at least 120 days before a General Election.

The amendment is seen as a key score for the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja grouping, which wants to go into the 2022 polls as a coalition party — bringing together at least 12 parties — that backs the former premier’s presidential bid.

But the IEBC says the clause clashes with its timelines for nominations, a key facet of the election that is under the IEBC’s purview.

Coalition agreement

“The timeline (on coalition agreement) is not aligned with electoral timelines,” Mr Chebukati says in the memorandum before the Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee, led by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni.

“IEBC is required to review nomination rules of any party participating in an election, six months before nominations. At what time does the commission review nomination rules of a coalition party?”

Mr Chebukati also says the provision on coalition parties “creates ambiguity on what then constitutes a coalition of political parties where constituent members of the individual parties are still able to field individual candidates”.

On proposals by the National Assembly to give more powers to the registrar of parties, including certifying that the names of persons on a party list are indeed members of a party, the IEBC says that infringes its role.

“This provision usurps the powers of the IEBC. Party list nominations are elections conducted by the commission. It is the commission to verify qualifications of the nominees and the lists are submitted as closed lists to the IEBC,” Mr Chebukati says.

Keep off

The registrar, Mr Chebukati said, should keep away from party lists.

“The registrar lacks the constitutional authority to certify any party list as this is tantamount to the verification of the list by the IEBC as guided by Article 90 of the Constitution,” the IEBC says in the memorandum.

The IEBC also objects to proposals in the bill on nominations, with Mr Chebukati saying parties should have a free hand in determining how primaries are conducted, in line with their rules.

The IEBC says: “The amendments (on how parties conduct nominations) usurp the commission’s mandate, notably in regulating party nomination processes where the commission has already developed the necessary regulations.”

On clearing independent candidates, the commission says the bill allows the registrar more powers that might interfere with the IEBC’s functions.

Train parties’ agents

But the IEBC backs the proposal for the registrar to train the chief agents of parties, work that was previously done by the commission.

This, it says, will enable the IEBC to concentrate on its mandate of accrediting and appointing the agents.

The IEBC also supports amendments that will provide clarity on the path to be taken by members of a political party who are aggrieved during nominations.

The proposals require that they first exhaust internal dispute resolution mechanisms before approaching the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal.


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