Chebukati: Political parties bill hurts poll timelines

POLITICS |

IEBC clerks help a voter to register during the second phase of the mass voter registration drive. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman has said the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill will interfere with the August general election timelines.

In the submissions that could delay the passage of the bill, Chebukati cited flaws that threaten the commission's mandate. This, however, comes as Registrar of Political parties (RPP) Anne Nderitu supported the bill.

The IEBC and RPP yesterday submitted their views to the Senate Justice, Legal Affairs, and Human Rights Committee that has for the past two days been conducting public participation on the bill.

The nine-member committee is chaired by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni. It retreated to a location outside Nairobi for report writing before tabling it at a Senate special sitting next week.

“We received submissions from 25 organisations,” Omogeni said.

Chebukati objected to the amendment of clause nine that seeks to have parties submit the coalition agreement to the RPP 120 days before the polls.

“The timelines are not committed to the electoral timelines because the commission is required to review nomination rules of any party participating in an election six months before nominations,” Chebukati said.

“At what time does the commission review nomination rules of a coalition party?”

The chairman also raised concerns with clause five of the bill that amends the principal Act to increase the period for provisionally registered political parties to be fully registered.

The clauses increase the period from the current 120 days from the date of issuance of a provisional registration certificate to 270.

Chebukati said the proposed timelines do not align with the election timelines, which require political parties to have submitted their nomination rules six months before the nomination of their candidates. This would lock out the participation of provisionally registered parties.

The polls agency boss was concerned that amendments to clause 22 of the act would hand new functions to the RPP.

The powers include the regulation of political parties, verification of members of political parties, and certification that an independent candidate is not a member of a party, which conflicts with the IEBC's mandate.

“The provision usurps the power of the commission. Party-list nominations are elections conducted by the commission. It is the commission's role to verify qualifications of the nominees,” noted the chair.

The bill further seeks to amend clause 15 to ensure a member of a deregistered party holding an elective office at the time of the party’s deregistration shall continue to hold office for the remainder of the elective term as a member of another political party or independent.

The commission objected to this, saying it is against the constitution since an elected person cannot transit to hold office under another party.

The bill also seeks to anchor ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja movement as a coalition political party, whose ticket he will fly in the election.

The Bill which now awaits the Senate's nod before being signed into law was passed by the National Assembly in a chaotic sitting marred by fistfights and shouting matches two weeks ago.

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