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Focus on Senate as it reconvenes to decide on election laws

By Daniel Psirmoi | January 5th 2017
Senate speaker Ekwee Ethuro

The spotlight will be on the Senate as it reconvenes for a second special sitting today to deliberate over the contentious amendments to the new elections law.

Kenyans will be waiting to hear if the Senate’s Committee on Legal Affairs will propose changes to the disputed Elections Laws (Amendment) Act as it tables its report in the House, following public hearings on the new law.

Various stakeholders from both the Government and the private sector presented their views to the committee led by Busia Senator Amos Wako, which concluded its public hearings on Tuesday.

The National Assembly had early last month passed the legislation with the Government-engineered amendments in an acrimonious debate that also saw some MPs allied to the Opposition stay away in protest.

backup system

Amendments that generated controversy in the new laws include the use of a manual backup system for voter identification and election transmission, and the timeliness for the acquisition of Information Technology devices to be used in the August General Election.

After the committee tables its report, senators will have an opportunity to debate it before it is put to a vote.

Senators could pass the Bill in the manner presented to it by the National Assembly or reject it, in which case a mediation committee will be formed to solve the matter.

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If the Senate endorses the changes passed by MPs, President Uhuru Kenyatta will sign the Bill into law, which will mean the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC) will have powers to use a manual voting system.

Last week, while making his submission before the committee, Information and Communication Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru warned that two million Kenyans may not vote in the elections if an electronic voting system is used alone.

He told the senators that the use of a purely electronic system by the electoral commission was prone to challenges, emphasising that there was need to use a manual back-up system alongside the electronic one to mitigate against any problems in case of a system failure or hacking.

“A 10 per cent failure rate of the electronic voting system, which happens with most technological systems, means 2.5 million voters in the country will be disfranchised. A one per cent failure means 250,000 Kenyans won’t be able to vote,” said the CS.

Attorney General Githu Muigai made a presentation before the same team yesterday, when he echoed Mr Mucheru’s sentiments on the use of a manual system.

He explained that contrary to what is in the public domain, the country, in the last elections, used a manual system that was only supported by electronic components, adding that the Constitution did not prescribe the use of an electronic system.

“The Constitution only states that whatever voting method is used must be simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent. There is a lot of misinformation among members of the public that there is a move to return it to the manual system, which is not the case,” he said.

Githu told the senators that what needed to be clarified in the Act was the circumstances under which IEBC would resort to a manual system as a complementary mechanism.

“I would advise that we make it absolutely clear under what circumstances do we resort to a manual system. And that must be very detailed, very clear and widely negotiated, stating who should be involved in the decision to go manual,” explained the AG.

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