Senators split on proposal to change law on IEBC selection

A Senate committee during a session at Parliament Buildings last December. A showdown is looming at the Senate today as senators consider the proposed changes to the law on the appointment of new electoral commissioners.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

A showdown is looming at the Senate today as senators consider the proposed changes to the law on the appointment of new electoral commissioners.

The contentious proposal could see Parliament cede one slot in the selection panel that will recruit new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners.

This is likely to be resisted by opposition politicians, who are likely to lose out given that the initial two slots approved by the National Assembly were to be shared between the minority and majority sides.

If the changes are upheld, the ruling coalition would fill the only slot reserved for the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), a situation that opposition lawmakers are not happy about.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna yesterday wondered how Parliament can get only two slots, the same as the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya. 

“Are you really saying that the religious community has a greater stake in elections than political parties? It just doesn’t make sense to us,” Mr Sifuna said.

The amendments to the IEBC Act as passed by the National Assembly seek to introduce two new nominating bodies to name representatives to the seven-member selection panel that will recruit new commissioners.

New changes

However, Nation has reliably learnt that the Senate Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights has proposed new changes, which might elicit a heated debate in the House today.

In the report, sources said the committee chaired by Bomet Senator Hillary Sigei wants the Political Parties Liaison Committee (PPLC) to have two slots, as opposed to one.

The National Assembly sponsored Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2022 proposed that the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) should have two slots, the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya two and one slot each for the Public Service Commission (PSC), PPLC and Law Society of Kenya (LSK).

This means that, contrary to the National Assembly proposal to have the Minority and Majority each have a nomination slot, the only available slot will now go to the majority side (Kenya Kwanza) if the amendments are passed.

Attorney-General Justin Muturi says the PPLC constitutes parties that have not fielded candidates in any elective position. 

Speaker Amason Kingi has convened a special sitting of the House today to consider the committee report and deliberate on the Bill, as a matter of urgency.

Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo said he will attend the special sitting to see what the committee has come up with, but the legislation “must be constitutional.” 

“The committee must convince us on how they arrived at the proposals, if not we will change,” Mr Maanzo said.

Constitutional crisis

The IEBC is staring at a constitutional crisis since two commissioners, Boya Molu and Prof Abdi Guliye, and the chairman Wafula Chebukati have left after completing their legal six-year terms.

If members reject the committee’s proposals and concur with the National Assembly, the President could assent to the law by tomorrow or latest Monday, according to insiders.

Mr Muturi had said that after he assumed office last year, he read the ruling and advised on the proposed amendments.

“In the advice, I proposed that Parliament, the minority and majority, will nominate two, a man and a woman, PPLC and PSC are the new nominating bodies. LSK still retains its one slot. The proposals are, however, not cast in stone,” explained Mr Muturi during IEBC’s launch of the post-election evaluation report on Monday.