Joint team finally strikes deal on panel to hire poll bosses

The Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms finally got a breakthrough last night on two contentious issues.

The team agreed on the constitution of the panel to appoint new commissioners and clean-up of the voters register.

After 30 days of heated debate and hardline positions, the Jubilee and CORD legislators agreed the panel would consist of nine members-- five from religious groups and four from the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC). They also agreed that the PSC would produce the secretary to the panel.

On the voters register, the team agreed that an audit firm of international repute be hired to conduct a forensic audit of the register.

As we went to press, the team was still in session discussing the number of new commissioners and their terms of service; whether they will be full-time or part-time members of the electoral commission.

They are expected to take a break today and reconvene tomorrow to work on the draft Elections offences Bill to present to Parliament.

Members reached for comment sounded excited, saying they were just finalising on the number of commissioners although the Jubilee side was insisting on the current number of nine.

“We are almost through. They are insisting on five members from the clergy, one each to be picked by Jubilee and CORD and two members from the Parliamentary Select Committee but we are asking for part-time commissioners,” said a CORD member of the team.

The weary looking MPs were still holed up at Windsor Golf and Country Club by 9.30pm after going through another difficult day of give and take in tough negotiations.

Sources said it was another difficult day, after the CORD side returned to the negotiating table with demands for a completely new voters register. This was rejected by the Jubilee side.

The CORD team is said to have shocked the Jubilee side by demanding that the select committee be mandated to drive the process of recruiting the nine new commissioners, a suggestion that was roundly criticised by Jubilee negotiators.

Audit firm

Some Jubilee members decided to take a walk before returning later in the day after they initially rejected demands by CORD that an audit firm of international repute be hired to clean the voters’ register.

“We agreed with them on that proposal but insisted that an audit firm be hired but expunged the word “international” and that was also agreed,” said a member of the Jubilee side. But inside sources indicated that the CORD side carried the day on this matter.

The planned press briefing at Windsor Hotel, the venue of the talks, earlier in the day failed to take place as some MPs were said to have taken time to brief their coalition principals on what was happening.

Journalists camped at the venue for the better part of yesterday with no significant response coming from the team. The committee, co-chaired by Senators Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and James Orengo (Siaya), was locked up in discussions the entire morning only for the Jubilee side to leave the venue without uttering a word to the media.

Senator Kiraitu was the first to leave followed by his members who were equally tight-lipped, save for the frantic phone calls they made.

Earlier, inside sources said the two factions were waiting for a nod from their principals on the issues they had agreed on.

“The media will be briefed once the principals agree. We have ceded ground on some of the contentious issues. There is no cause for alarm,” said a source who declined to be named.

In the morning at around 11am as the meeting kicked off, Senator Orengo allowed the media to access the venue, which had all the members and the parliamentary secretariat save for Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who joined the team later.

By afternoon, the Jubilee leaders left one after another with none of them willing to talk to the media.

When approached, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria brushed off journalists, urging them to continue waiting.

“Just continue waiting, there is nothing,” he said as he drove off.

Tongaren MP Esseli Simiyu directed the media to talk to the two chairs, saying there could be light at the end of the tunnel.“Just be patient. You might be briefed today,” he said without elaborating.

Senator Murkomen came at around 4pm and immediately left the venue without speaking to anyone. At around 5pm, Kiraitu returned with Murkomen, Jimmy Agwenyi (Kitutu Chache North) and Mohammued Mohammed (Mandera West) but declined to speak to the media.