Not for the first time, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan has threatened to bar the Opposition from participating in next year’s elections.
The latest threat is informed by the protest rallies organised by the Opposition to compel current IEBC commissioners, including Mr Hassan, to leave office ahead of the 2017 elections. They have raised integrity and impartiality issues about the elections officials.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga has hinted of a possible boycott of next year’s election unless IEBC is reconstituted. Mr Hassan has shrugged off this threat as inconsequential, and that participation in an election is voluntary. This ping pong won't end soon. On the surface of it, Mr Hassan is within his right to defend his job. Yet rather than carrying out an objective analysis of a developing situation, Mr Hassan could be helping the CORD coalition score a political goal.
And it is not just CORD calling for heads to roll at IEBC. The Church, the civil society, the Law Society of Kenya and even Cotu are of the view the IEBC is incapable of conducting free and fair elections. Most of these stakeholders take cognisant of the events in the lead up to the 2007 elections. Nobody wants a repeat of the ignominious 2007/8 post election violence. By any measure, the issues at hand are taking a political turn that only a political process can cure. Beyond the legalese and the Constitution, the stalemate doesn't augur well for the country.
While the position of this paper has been that IEBC be bolstered and a mutually acceptable formula worked out to resolve the issues in light of the limited time left before the 2017 elections, Mr Hassan’s combative position coupled with Mr Odinga's intransigence make matters worse.
In any case, elections boycotted by the Opposition will simply amount to sham elections; lacks credibility and the worst of all, denies voters a real choice. Kenyans deserve an alternative in a fair electoral contest.