Court ruling on ballot papers to determine if country will hold August 8 polls

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Roselyn Akombe and Paul Kurgat address the press on election preparedness in Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

A High Court decision today on the tender for printing ballot papers will determine  whether preparations for the elections due in 31 days will stay on course or be thrown off track.

Should the petition by the Opposition succeed, and the contract awarded to Dubai-based Al Ghurair be revoked, the electoral commission will have to identity a new supplier, a process it has warned could stretch beyond the August 8 poll date.

But should the decision go its way, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will be on course to deliver the ballot papers whose first batch is expected in the country on July 25 and the last on August 2.

But the verdict by Justices George Odunga, Joel Ngugi and J J Mativo might not settle the dispute because both parties yesterday signalled they would fight an unfavourable decision at the appellate court.

The National Super Alliance (NASA) Communication Director Kibisu Kabatesi said the coalition's leadership was ready to appeal should their prayers be dismissed.

"It depends on the grounds of the ruling but yes, we would appeal an unfair judgement," Mr Kabatesi said.

An IEBC official who sought anonymity said the matter "could go all the way up to the Supreme Court".

Former IEBC commissioner Thomas Letangule warned that nullification of the tender about a month to election day would put not only the commission but also the country in an awkward position.

"I am positive that the Judiciary is operating in this environment (and) will make a decision that does not throw the country into a crisis. If they nullify that tender, IEBC has already executed the tender and therefore there will be cost implications. In the unlikely event of the court nullifying that contract, IEBC must quickly move to the superior court, appeal and get a stay order," Mr Letangule said.

Thursday, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said "preparations have been within the timelines" despite numerous hurdles, "especially emanating from procurement processes and the subsequent court orders".

"We urge all those who play critical roles in the process to make their contributions, taking cognisance of the rigid timelines," Mr Chebukati said.

Past statements by IEBC Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba and Chebukati have painted the picture of a major crisis should the tender be revoked.

"...We wish to remind Kenyans that court processes that seek to stop key milestones in the remaining days will no doubt affect the election date," Chebukati warned then.

 [Geoffrey Mosoku, Roselyne Obala and Moses Michira]

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