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The people and institutions to watch ahead of elections

By Luke Anami and Roselyne Obala | January 2nd 2017
Chief Justice David Maraga. (Photo: Edward Kiplimo/Standard)

Intrigues currently unfolding, violence and court battles seem inevitable unless the political class becomes tolerant with each other.

A cast of men and women, who hold the destiny of our country in their hands, will be in the spotlight as we head to the polls.

At the top of the chart is President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, who wield immense power and hold some of the answers as to the direction the country will take during and after the elections.

They are in charge of Government and control State apparatus and have the machinery to whip up legislators to craft laws which will determine how the polls are conducted.

The year starts with an attempt to undo some controversial amendments to the Elections Act 2016 to provide for a manual system alongside the electronic one. These amendments were pushed through by Jubilee MPs on behalf of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), triggering off protests from the Opposition and was threatening to spill into the streets when Senate intervened.

On the other side of the coin is another key plank to the elections, Raila Odinga, who is leading the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). He has raised issues with how the electoral process is being managed and accused Jubilee of planning to rig the polls.

Although the Opposition is yet to pick its presidential candidate, Raila is still crucial whether he is picked or not. His constituency will be keenly watching his every act, just like his adversely whose reactions will be tailored to counter his every move.

In the same matrix are ANC's Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka, FORD Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula, and their lieutenants who coalesce under NASA. Each hopes to be picked to carry the Opposition flag to battle it out with Jubilee. How the candidate is picked will determine whether there will major fall-outs and political realignment, both in CORD and the Opposition as a whole.

Also critical to watch this year, and which could make or break the country, are the security apparatus.

Led by Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, Inspector of Police Joseph Boinnet and NIS Director Maj-Gen (retired) Philip Kameru, they have the difficult task of maintaining security during campaigns, voting day and the post-election period.

Similarly, the institutions that make up the Judiciary are at the centre of focus this year.

At the moment, the Senate is the centre of focus after the National Assembly bungled the passage of the contentious Elections (Amendment) Bill 2015 that seeks to provide alternative registration, identification and transmission of results.

This comes in the backdrop of a negotiated bi-partisan election law by the two Houses that provided for electronic identification, registration and transmission of results.

The nomination of Wafula Chebukati for the position of chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has propelled him into the unenviable position going by what has happened to all his predecessors as they were hounded out after presiding over polls. He still has to clear the last hurdle of vetting by Parliament.

In the event that Parliament rejects his nomination, the selection panel will be required to re-advertise the position and conduct interviews afresh, a matter that is likely to interfere with the timelines as set by the Constitution.

IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba is also a man on the spot.

The issue of operations at IEBC, especially in the procurement of electoral equipment and the controversial identification of KPMG to audit the voter register in the absence of substantive commissioners is likely to cause chaos.

Chiloba has, however, insisted that the commissioners' work is mainly policy, and therefore their absence does not in any way pose a threat to the on-going activities in readiness for the August 8 poll.

Another key player in ensuring there are credible polls is the office of the Registrar of Political Parties, which currently has Lucy Ndung'u as the acting registrar after her term expired.

The office will determine how political parties conduct their affairs in line with the Political Parties Act.

Efforts by major players in elections, including the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD), to have President Kenyatta and Parliament to initiate the process of getting a substantive registrar and also delink the office from the IEBC have failed since last year.

Kenyans will be watching how retired Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala will navigate the murky waters in dealing with corruption that has hounded out his predecessors.

Parliament will be required to interview and confirm the nomination of  Wabukala for the chair of EACC, which has been dogged with claims of incompetence. EACC is supposed to ensure that contestants do not have quetionable integrity issues or pending corruption cases.

Also on the spotlight is Francis ole Kaparo, the chairman of National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). He is supposed to police politicians and ensure that they do not resort to acts and utterances likely to balkanise the country or excite emotions that could tear apart the country during or after the elections. Kaparo and his team are supposed to rein in politicians to ensure that they do not make hate speeches or resort to violence.

The newly appointed Chief Justice David Maraga is the man to watch because as president of the Supreme Court, he has the responsibility of deciding the outcome of the presidential election petition should a candidate dispute the results and challenge them in court.

As part of the preparations for election petitions, the CJ last year appointed High Court Judge Msagha Mbogholi as the new chair of the Judiciary Committee on Elections that will coordinate the appointment of judges to hear petitions filed by governors, MPs, senators and Members of the County Assembly.

He has already directed the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal to finalise a report on proposed amendments to the Disputes Act to enable the Mbogholi committee to fast-track the amendments ahead of the political parties' nominations process.

"The task to ensure that all petitions are handled in a comprehensive manner and within the law is on your shoulders. We must move with speed to assure Kenyans of a transparent process," CJ Maraga told the Mbogholi team.

Justice Maraga also walks a tightrope this year as he shoulders the task to instill confidence in the Judiciary after the 2013 presidential election petition that almost split the country. CORD felt that the Supreme Court cheated it when it dismissed Raila's petition and confirmed Uhuru as President.

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