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Why IEBC team may not leave soon

By Jacob Ngetich | September 11th 2016
IEBC Chair Issack Hassan. Embattled electoral commissioners could remain in office until the end of the year, despite a recommendation by the House joint committee that they exit by end of this month. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Embattled electoral commissioners could remain in office until the end of the year, despite a recommendation by the House joint committee that they exit by end of this month.

Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkonga said given the timelines that must be followed, a September exit would be inconceivable, as the Senate only passed the Elections Amendment Bill 2016 last week.

President Uhuru Kenyatta will now have seven days to assent to it, but there could be further delay because the Bill did not have a commencement date.

Chepkonga said the law is clear that any Bill passed without publishing date comes to effect after 21 days.

“After the Senate passing the Bill, add another seven days within which the Head of State will assent to the law, on top of that another 21 days. From there then we will start putting up a selection panel, which will go through the interviews for the new team,” he said.

He said the appointment of members of the selection panel could further delay the process, thereby delaying exit of the current commissioners.

Chepkonga’s committee is mandated to oversee creation of a seven-member selection panel that will pick the new commissioners that will manage the August 2017 General Election.

Bitter confrontation

After a bitter confrontation between Jubilee and Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) over the suitability of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) members to run the electoral agency, the two teams, through the  Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reforms, negotiated an exit process for the commissioners, whose tenure is protected by law.

The negotiated deal, which was settled last month, agreed to have IEBC chairman Issack Hassan and the other eight commissioners step down by September and pave way for a new team to supervise the elections.

The select committee co-chaired by senators James Orengo and Kiraitu Murungi had noted that the early exit would give the new team adequate time to prepare for polls.

“We have a deal on IEBC, specifically the 10 points we had marked and the related processes to ensure that the 2017 General Election is free and fair and we hope the commissioners will remain in office and hand over to the successor team not later than September 30, 2016.,Orengo said at the time.

It was agreed that the commissioners’ send-off package would be agreed upon after the committee’s report has been presented to the National Assembly and the Senate.

Kiraitu said the replacement of electoral commissioners would ensure there were institutional reforms to strengthen the IEBC.

“We also agreed that the number of commissioners be reduced from nine to seven who would serve on a full time basis,” Kiraitu said.

The process of appointing new commissioners will include the identification of a selection panel appointed by the President. The panel will include five people from religious groups and four from the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Kiraitu noted that process appointing new commissioners must be fast. But some leaders such as Elgeyo Marakwen Senator Kipchumba Murkomen say it must not be rushed.

Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama and Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu have accused Jubilee of trying to obstruct the select committee’s recommendations.

“We know the Jubilee leadership has been mischievous and we will block them. We will not allow the electoral reforms negotiated outside Parliament to be frustrated. We will stand our ground,” said Muthama.

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