IEBC must embrace the input of all political players

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) unveiled its strategic plan in a ceremony preceded by calls from opposition leaders for delay of the event to allow for wider consultations and consensus on way forward.

And on the day of the launch, the main opposition parties did not only snub the event, but they also issued a statement to the effect that they would boycott the next General Election.

Reason? They feel left out of a process they believe they have a right to participate in; they are opposed to decisions being made about them without them.

On its part, the IEBC argues that there have been significant involvement of all stakeholders in drafting the strategic plan some of whose provisions it wants to roll out in good time to avoid last-minute dash as it prepares the next elections. In other quarters, there is the view that all is not lost and that stakeholders would still have the opportunity to participate in fine-tuning the document as it is being actualised in phases.

It is easy to dismiss the threats to boycott the elections with the arrogance of a section of elected leaders who argue that the electoral landscape is awash with candidates who are elected into office unopposed. It is also easy to dismiss CORD and its leadership as politicians who have formed and perfected the art of crying foul in every election they participate in and lose.

But there is a bigger picture that we should not lose focus on. Naturally, human beings are known to embrace outcomes of processes they have owned. Preparation for political competition must essentially bring on board all players to agree on the rules of engagement.

When a section of stakeholders feel left out, a perception of bias is created which in turn lays a firm foundation for rejection of the outcome of the process.

The degree of concern is more disturbing if it comes from the country’s largest opposition coalition of political parties.
By its own admission, the IEBC has acknowledged that it has lost public trust and has stated publicly that it will endeavour to regain its lost glory. The latest opinion poll by Ipsos Synovate reinforced this position in May.

According to the poll, only 42 per cent of Kenyans have confidence in the IEBC to conduct the next elections. This is to say that 58 per cent of Kenyans have little confidence in the commission.

This rating is dangerous for a public institution whose mandate is to ensure a free and fair election and whose handling of the electoral process and results must leave both winners and losers satisfied. At the launch of its strategic plan, the IEBC restated that it had consistently sought the views of those in the Opposition and would press for further engagements.

This is a positive development and is the right spirit in the management of competition for power. The engagement between IEBC and all political players should not just revolve around the voting process, they should cover the pre-election period, particularly voter registration process, operations of the commission, IEBC’s dispute resolution mechanisms and a host of other issues that come to the table.

The IEBC has in the past raised the red flag on its own ability to conduct a legitimate electoral process in the absence of adequate funding. It has warned that if this is not addressed, it may not be able to conduct viable voter registration exercise which must be a continuous process between cyclical elections.

We must all worry about results from previous surveys that have indicated that very few potential voters are aware that voter registration is going on, leaving a vast majority facing the possibility of being left out in the next elections.
As the IEBC implements its strategic plan, it must take keen note of the concerns of political players and look for credible ways of dealing with such concerns.