Fears over IEBC readiness for credible elections

By Rawlings Otieno

NAIROBI; KENYA: The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) monitoring project has expressed fears that the electoral body might not conduct credible elections in next months’ polls.

 The team faulted the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Registrar of Political Parties Lucy Ndung’u of not reigning in on those who breach the Election Offences Act and the political Parties Act.

The Dialogue team led by former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan in a report made scathing revelation on party hopping, formation of alliances by elites who do not consult members, and founding parties on ethno-regional platforms is happening in spite of the law and the new Constitution.

 The report also noted that Political parties have continued to operate in their old ways; with some allegedly recruiting members through fraud. Parties are still tied to individuals who founded them, and some are still based on ethnic identities and loyalties.

 “As a result of this party primaries conducted in January failed to demonstrate any clear break with the past. The behaviour of political parties has detracted from requirements of the Political Parties Act, 2011, and the Elections Act, 2011, which legislators have mutilated or watered down to serve their political survival interests,” read the report on the preparedness of the March 4 election.  

 The Annan led team faulted public officials that they were yet to apply sanctions on political parties and the key leaders citing that without injurious consequences for their actions, politicians will continue ignoring the rule of law and weaken the foundation of a credible election. 

 The report says that the requisite managerial capacity of the IEBC to conduct elections is yet to be properly tested. Elections comprise several tasks, all rolled into one major task, and carried out in a few days.

 “On account of this, the Commission should carefully test and review its systems and address any weaknesses before the actual date of the election. This is important to ensure there are no feelings of false security,” read part of the report sent to Newsroom on Thursday.

 The team has now recommended that IEBC and Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo should agree on and install an effective early warning, response and mitigation strategy for election-related violence, given current indications.

Civic and voter education could also do with improved coordination and IEBC’s leadership in forging strong partnerships with other providers.

 According to the report, failure to punish the influential and powerful individuals around whom political parties revolve will lead to the IEBC and the Registrar being viewed as paper tigers, which can safely be ignored.

 The IEBC should focus on the violations and identify culprits for punishment using due process and use the remaining period before the next elections to fine-tune its systems and to improve on its chances of success.

 Although, Kenyans have had confidence that the electoral process would be conducted freely, the report suggests that there is weak enforcement of laws already passed which could easily undermine the credibility of elections.

 It also recommends that the anticipated reforms to the Registrar’s office and further reform of the regulatory framework for political parties may be the only recourse in the post-election period.

While stringent legal and institutional measures have been put in place to deal with any electoral disputes and petitions, trust in public institutions to mediate such disputes is low, the report states.