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Why IEBC should learn from Kenya’s great political parties

COMMENTARY
By Joe Ageyo | April 26th 2017
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba during a press conference on January 31

This week marks a great milestone in our journey to the promised land of party democracy. I have watched with great admiration, as the political parties put up a historic show of thoroughly well organised primaries. Of course I understand the small problems the parties have had to handle.

ODM for instance has been forced to live with the current governor of Busia after its preferred candidate Paul Otuoma requested to be allowed to run as an independent. ODM leaders must be very unhappy because Otuoma snubbed the repeat polls even after the party assured him that he would also be allowed to include ghosts in his list of voters in the re-run.

In Nairobi, ODM suddenly cancelled the primary when thousands of its supporters were already on the queue. This was a commendable move because the party realised at the last minute that all these were lazy people who simply wanted to use the ODM primaries to escape from work.

In Migori, the party’s election officials were forced to declare both Ochilo Ayacko and incumbent governor Okoth Obado, winners of the county primary after they failed to agree on the result.

This way the party has saved itself from the trouble of having to decide which of these gentlemen actually won the vote.

These are both party members and they come from the same county so it doesn’t hurt if each of them gets a piece of the coveted certificate. ODM’s main rival Jubilee too had to cancel its nominations on Saturday for reasons that were clearly beyond its control.

INCENDIARIES

Laikipia residents for instance, in a moment of excitement, burnt ballot materials, which they mistook for firewood, leaving voters in limbo.

It is perfectly possible that this was an opposition scheme to paint the residents of this great county as being unable to distinguish between paper and firewood. Then there were all these idlers who suddenly decided to show up at Jubilee polling stations without being invited by any one.

I watched the president in agony the following day as he painstakingly explained to the country that no one had expected these gate crashers to take part in the party’s primaries. And after much deliberation the party decided to give these millions their wish.

Because they seemed to have confused the nominations with the General Election, the party made the wise decision to use the IEBC register instead of the party’s membership register.

The leaders have finally come to terms with the fact that theirs is a national party and there is really no need to stop anyone who wants to vote in its primaries? So what if ODM or Wiper members take part in Jubilee primaries? It is generosity at its best!

But with just about 100 days to go before the General Election, the parties have clearly demonstrated that their frequent criticism of the IEBC is clearly justified. And the current IEBC which is fairly inexperienced will do well to emulate these great political outfits with superb organisational skills.

Jubilee party for instance, has the distinct advantage of having its headquarters located at State House. This is the small house in Nairobi from where the party’s leader, President Kenyatta, has been making routine announcements such as issuing schedules for the party primaries and cancelling them when they don’t go well.

LEARNING LESSONS

Why would the IEBC not want to benefit from the experience of a party run from State House? In fact, the State House lawns would be a great place for the IEBC to make their announcements from.

They could even set up a tallying centre from there and give direction to the country about voting and related events.

This means that any small matter arising out of the election will be quickly dealt with.  All the president will need to do is hold a press conference with the DP by his side and announce a repeat of the whole election countrywide.

ODM on the other hand is also not without great assets the IEBC could draw from. The party has great dispute resolution methods. For instance, the party has shown that any time a member complains about a result, it is quickly nullified and a new date set for the repeat poll. That is the way to go.

This is the party that was so ready to start its nominations even before IEBC gazetted the names of aspirants. But the electoral body was so jealous that it scuttled the party’s plan.

But imagine if IEBC would just be humble enough to learn from ODM!

The party also has shown great respect for courts and all things legal. Just a day after a court in Malindi extended the deadlines for nomination, the party has responded the way any great group of patriots would.

To ensure court orders of this magnitude are not issued in vain, the party is slotting some of its important primaries beyond the original deadline of April 26.

The parties have played their part in giving the country a template for democracy. The IEBC need not reinvent the wheel. Let democracy ring from every corner. August 8, here we come.

 

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