Civil society groups move to court over revocation of campaign spending limits

NATIONAL |
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati. [File, Standard]

Civil society organisations will move to court to challenge the decision by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to revoke campaign spending limits.

Led by the Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (Creco) and Elections Observations Group (Elog), they faulted IEBC for giving politicians a leeway to spend as they please ahead of the 2022 General Election.

The organisations questioned the basis for revocation of the campaign spending limits saying the commission was within the law to gazette the same despite the decision by Parliament to annul the rules.

“Unregulated use of money in the forthcoming elections is likely to promote electoral malpractices like voter bribery, encourage the use of dirty money and essentially distort the essence of democracy,” said the organisations.

IEBC in a gazette notice revoked its earlier notification on campaign contributions and spending limits for next year's General Election.

The decision was made after the National Assembly annulled the draft campaign financing regulations and the contributions and spending limits for political parties and candidates.

MPs had protested the decision by IEBC to gazette the regulations before they were approved by the House.

According to the Election Campaign Financing Act, 2013, the regulations should have been in place one year to elections.

“…in the exercise of the powers conferred by Article 88 (4) (i) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, section 4 of the IEBC Act, 2011, sections 12, 18 and 19 of the Election Campaign Financing Act, 2013 and sections 18 and 19 of the Statutory Instruments Act, 2013, the IEBC gives notice of the revocation of Gazette Notice No. 8024 …published on the 9th August 2021…” states the gazette notice dated October 5.

Creco executive secretary Joshua Changwony argued that the principles of credible elections are safeguarded in the Constitution but Parliament wants to water this down.

“We wish to inform all Kenyans that we are considering instituting a public interest litigation to ensure that money for the purpose of 2022 elections is regulated,” he said.

He added that elections are a celebration of fundamental human rights and as such all relevant duty bearers should take practical steps within the confines of the law to ensure that political rights are “promoted protected and fulfilled.”

"It’s very unfortunate for Parliament to do away with that provision because this is something that we have yearned for in this country,” Mr Changwony said.

The organisations called upon IEBC and other relevant bodies to explore other ways of enforcing the funding regulations among others pushing for the judicial intervention of the Electoral Financing Act 2013, encouraging candidates and political parties to self-disclose their sources of campaign monies and step up voter education campaigns on the adverse effect of unregulated use of, money in elections of the marginalized groups.

In August, IEBC published a gazette notice outlining contributions and spending limits for political parties and candidates to guide next year’s polls.

The regulations that were contained in the Election Campaign Financing Regulations 2021 had capped spending for presidential candidates at Sh4.4 billion, while political parties at Sh17.7 billion.

Parties were allowed to spend Sh11 billion for transport, Sh1.8 billion for advertising, Sh945 million for administrative costs, and Sh1.5 billion for poll agents.

Governors, senators, and Woman Representatives were to spend a maximum of Sh123 million, down from Sh432 million allowed in 2017.

On the other hand, political parties spending ceiling was raised from Sh15 billion set in 2017 to Sh17.7 billion. 

The regulations were to ensure among other things open campaign financing accounts, financing-expenditure committees, and appointment of authorised persons to manage campaign funds, at least two months before elections.

The expenditure was tabulated based on population and landmass. Single source contribution to candidates or parties was also limited to 20 per cent of the respective schedules.

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