Elections 2017

2022 looms large and we are still running a skeleton polls agency

With about two and a half years to go to the next General Election, Kenya still does not have a fully constituted electoral commission in place.

With about two and a half years to go to the next General Election, Kenya still does not have a fully constituted electoral commission in place. The commission is currently operating with only the chairman and two commissioners after four others left.

This has been the case for more than a year, yet in our own peculiar Kenyan way, the urgency in ensuring a fully constituted Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is in place has not seemed to register.

Not even with the prospects of a referendum on the Building Bridges Initiative looming large.

A Bill by the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has recommended the setting up of a selection panel that will shortlist individuals to fill the vacant positions in the electoral agency.

But the formation of the panel seems headed for the whirlwinds as politics creeps in.

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By insisting that the lion’s share of the selection panel be taken up by the Parliamentary Service Commission, MPs are demonstrating yet another desperate attempt to tinker with the working of IEBC like they did in the past with disastrous results.

The push and pull over the selection panel does not augur well for the commission. By now, the commission that should be up and running is short of four commissioners, yet 2022 is not far off. 

One would have hoped that the country has learnt vital lessons from the disputed 2007 presidential elections and, most recently, the 2017 poll debacle on the importance of an adequately prepared and fully independent commission.

In both cases, we dropped the ball when we allowed political interference in the electoral commission.

We lost it when, only months to the poll, the commission was still grappling with last-minute procurement and was clearly ill prepared. This, despite the fact that the commission has five years to prepare for a General Election.

To date, the commission is yet to regain public trust.

Allowing Parliament to control who hires commissioners risks further eroding this and putting the independence of the commission and its impartiality to question.

The clock is ticking, and the push and pull on the constitution of the selection panel means more precious time will be lost in political shenanigans instead of ensuring that the country has an electoral commission that can conduct a poll any time.

One would have hoped the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga would have given poll reforms fresh impetus. Instead, what we are witnessing is a growing sense of lethargy and procrastination in fixing our electoral commission once and for all.