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IEBC election rules may send coalition parties to oblivion

By - | Published Sat, January 5th 2013 at 00:00, Updated January 4th 2013 at 23:36 GMT +3

The March 4 ballot papers design for presidential/running mate and for governor/running mate elections should be very carefully thought through.

According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Elections Rules and Regulations, the situation envisages independent candidates or candidates sponsored by the same political parties vying for both presidential/running mate and governor/running mate.

The Elections Rules/Regulations make provision for only one political party symbol; that of the presidential/governor candidate, as if s/he is running alone and does not provide for the running mate (whose party is forced to lose its identity).

 It does not envisage a situation where candidates may be sponsored by different political parties in a coalition and yet, the Political Parties Act (PPA) in Section 10 and Third Schedule envisages and allows for Coalition Agreements between two or more parties.

The Elections Rules and Regulations are inconsistent with the PPA and wrongly assume that presidential/governor and their running mates will be sponsored by the same political parties even in a coalition and will use the same party symbols. The IEBC Elections Rules/Regulations ignore two facts; first, the existence of coalitions made of different political parties, which are allowed to sponsor different candidates for different positions. This means one political party in the same coalition can sponsor a presidential candidate while another party sponsors the running mate.

Second, the IEBC Elections Rules/Regulations, also forgot that Section 11(6) of PPA provides that “the political parties which have merged into a new political party under this section shall stand dissolved upon registration of the new political party.” This means that by requiring the use of only one political party symbol (of the presidential/governor candidate) on the presidential/governor ballot paper, the IEBC effectively “merges” the coalition political parties and causes them to lose their identity in effect causing the political party of the presidential/governor candidate to swallow the political party sponsoring the running mate by not allowing them to have their political party symbol on the ballot paper.

It also means that, if the political party of the running mate sponsors candidates in the other four elections; this will cause confusion because its running mate candidate “appears to belong to another party on the presidential/governor ballot.” The IEBC presidential/governor ballot design contravenes the law.

The ballot designs for presidential/governor/running mates must be revised in line with sections 10, 11 and the third schedule of the PPA and in conformity with the new legal and constitutional dispensation. They must be designed to ensure different political parties sponsoring different candidates do not lose their identity or are not forced to “merge” on the ballot by the IEBC. This means the ballot paper must have five columns and as many rows as will be the number of presidential/governor and their running mates candidates.

 This will make provisions for the political parties symbols of presidential/governor/running mates and their photographs and leave the fifth column, the space for the voter’s mark. This shows that the political parties in the coalition have not merged and allows them to build their capacity. Most important, the IEBC by retaining the symbols and identity of coalition political parties on the ballot papers, will reduce confusion during the elections.

If IEBC does not review its Elections Rules/Regulations, there is a great risk that after elections some coalition parties will not have seats in Parliament and county assemblies and may be dissolved as required under the law. This “merger” ballot design will weaken and consign political parties to oblivion; instead of IEBC helping to build strong political parties.

The writer is an elections and constitutional law expert and lecturer, South Eastern University College