William Ruto faces stiff Azimio resistance in bid to overhaul IEBC

President William Ruto gives his remarks during the Official launch of the affordable housing project in Shauri Moyo in Nairobi on January 27, 2023. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

President William Ruto is facing renewed dissent from the Azimio la Umoja Coalition in his bid to reconstitute the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has lined up public rallies across the country beginning today through which he seeks to guarantee the opposition's involvement in the process.

Ruto on Monday began the process of replacing former IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Boya Molu and Yakub Guliye who vacated office following the lapse of their six-year tenure. The process will also see former Vice Chair Juliana Cherera, and former commissioners Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang'aya replaced after they quit following allegations of electoral misconduct during last year's General Election.

Commissioner Irene Masit is on suspension as she awaits a decision by Judge Aggrey Mchelule-led tribunal on whether she will continue holding office.

According to the IEBC Amendment Act 2022, the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) and the inter-religious council will get two slots each in the selection panel out of the total seven, whereas the Law Society of Kenya and Political Parties Liaison Committee will have one member each.

Raila has, however, registered his displeasure with the new law and accused the Head of State of orchestrating a ploy to fill the panel with his cronies.

"We demand that any attempts to reconstitute the IEBC single-handedly by Mr Ruto cease forthwith so that Kenyans themselves can reconstitute the body after full and fair deliberations," said Raila on Monday during a rally at Kamukunji Grounds.

And today, Raila is expected to continue mounting pressure on the Ruto regime in a bid to force his hand into negotiations centring on electoral reforms.

He is also expected to give his supporters a way forward following allegations from the so-called whistle-blower report that he had been rigged out of the presidency.

The report claims Ruto colluded with the IEBC officials and the international community to engage in vote rigging and tampering with results transmission.

Raila claims he won with 8 million votes against President Ruto's 5 million.

Leaders from the Kenya Kwanza Alliance have, however, termed Raila's latest resort to confrontational politics as a move calculated to force him into a power-sharing agreement

President Ruto has also ruled out any form of truce with Raila - akin to the 2018 handshake between Raila and former President Uhuru Kenyatta - and has maintained that he (Raila) should focus on his role as the official opposition leader.

The parliamentary Justice and legal affairs Committee (JLAC) is now mandated with vetting proposed commissioners and submitting a report to the House plenary for approval or rejection.

"Disagreements are part of people exercising their democratic rights... but at the end of the day the law must be followed," said chairperson George Murugara.

West Mugirango MP Steve Mogaka, also a member of JLAC, said: "There must be seen to be fairness in the process. If a single player chooses majority of the referee, then the process is flawed."

According to law, Ruto is now expected to name the selection panel, which will in turn start scouting for nominee commissioners for vetting by Parliament.

The team will be face an arduous task of restoring public trust in IEBC following the last General Election that left the commission fractured.

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