IEBC confirms election date as fate of Referendum remains in limbo

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati addresses the press at Anniversary Towers. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has confirmed that elections will be conducted on August 9 next year.

This now raises queries on the fate of the referendum.

Last month, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) secretariat said the electoral agency should prepare for a possible referendum in the event that the Court of Appeal rules in favour of the process.

BBI secretariat co-chair Junet Mohammed said they do not expect excuses of strict timelines by the commission.

He said in case the court rules in favour of BBI opponents, they expect President Uhuru Kenyatta to assent to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 for onward submission to IEBC.

“If the Court of Appeal clears the Bill, IEBC has to prepare for a referendum. We don’t want to hear stories that they cannot conduct a referendum and a General Election,” he said.

The Court of Appeal will deliver the judgement on the BBI appeal case on August 20.

Junet who is the National Assembly Minority Leader argued that the electoral commission conducted the General Election in August 2017 and a repeat presidential election in October, hence it can handle the referendum and hold elections in 2022.

Given that the BBI case – regardless of the appeal outcome – may end up in the Supreme Court, time is not on the proponents' side.

If the case goes their way in the long run, constitutional timelines may force proponents of the Bill to abandon some of the goals they had wanted to achieve through the constitutional amendments.

A referendum may still be on the table for them, but more hurdles that challenge the practicality of a plebiscite await at every turn.

“If the matter ends up in the Supreme Court then it will be in abeyance until it is heard and determined,” said Bobby Mkangi, one of the framers of the current constitution.

Meanwhile, IEBC has stated that it will need Sh40.917 billion to adequately conduct the 2022 General Election.

Through a statement on August 9, Chebukati revealed that the commission had prepared a Sh40.329 billion budget for the Election Operation Plan but estimated a further Sh588 million for acquiring items useful in Covid-19 prevention protocols.

“A further estimated Sh588 million is required for procuring items to be used in the Covid-19 prevention protocols including thermometer guns, sanitisers, soap and washing points. This brings the total General Election requirement to 40.917 billion,” read part of the statement.

The IEBC chairman indicated the National Treasury allocated a budget of Sh26.354 billion, with a deficit of Sh14.577 billion.

In the 2021-22 budget, the Commission was given Sh14.5 billion in the Sh3.6 trillion budget, months after the agency requested Sh14 billion to hold a referendum.

Should the superior court (s) overturn the High Court’s decision, which halted the referendum-bound BBI process, then the National Treasury would have to look for money from the contingency kitty to finance the drive.

The general election and a referendum would cost Sh55 billion.

He made the address during a workshop in Mombasa of the Kenya Media Sector Working Group meeting.