By VITALIS KIMUTAI
With about six months to the polls, the country is already in election mood, with many hoping the polls, the first ones under the new Constitution, will overhaul the political landscape.
But even as those seeking to occupy State House scramble for votes, one thing is definite –the incoming President will not be sworn in at night as happened with President Kibaki following the disputed 2007 Presidential poll tally.
“The law is now clear on how the President will be sworn in and the ceremony will be conducted during the day (in public), not at night,” lawyer Willis Otieno, an official at Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa said.
Otieno pointed out that in case of disputes, the timelines have also been set for Judiciary to hear and determine petitions and prepare either for a repeat poll or swearing in of President elect.
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If a presidential election is challenged in Supreme Court, it would take 28 days to resolve the petition and swearing in of the new President. If the election is annulled, a fresh election is held within 60 days. The Constitution provides for election petition filed within seven days after the date of declaration of the results. The Supreme Court shall hear and determine the petition within 14 days.
If the Supreme Court determines the election of the president-elect is invalid, a fresh election shall be held within 60 days after the determination.
At the same time, the Constitution states that in the event that election is contested in court, the president-elect shall be sworn-in on the seventh day from the date at which the court renders the decision.
President Kibaki was sworn in at dusk in State House for his second term after chairman of defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) Samuel Kivuitu controversially declared him the winner.
Former Chief Justice Evans Gicheru presided over the hurriedly convened ceremony attended by a few aides and senior government officials.
Sixteen senior Government officials will oversee President Mwai Kibaki’s hand over to the incoming President after the March 4, 2013 election.
The committee will be chaired by Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia and includes Attorney General Githu Muigai, Chief of General Staff Julius Karangi, General Michael Gichangi, Director of National Security Intelligence Services and Chief Registrar of Judiciary Gladys Shollei
Other members of the committee are five permanent secretaries, the yet to be appointed Inspector General of Police and Clerk of National Assembly. Once winner is declared, the transition team will immediately ensure that security officers are deployed to guard incoming president ahead of handover ceremony.
The symbolic sword and the Constitution will be handed over by Kibaki to the new president during handing over ceremony.
The country is preparing for historic bulk election that will see voters pick six candidates for the various national and county elective posts.
“For the first time since independence, voters will pick President, MP, Senator, Governor, Member of County Assembly and Women Representative at one go,” Erick Korir, an advocate in Kericho said.
In previous polls, voters have been picking President, MP and civic leader in what political parties popularised as three-piece suit.
Korir said challenges facing Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on the road to rolling out a credible poll ought to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
The boundaries delimitation process was complicated with a lot of challenges and the High Court had to step in to settle the row following several cases filed challenging the manner in which IEBC had drawn the boundaries.
Otieno said the delay in procuring Biometric Voter Registration kits had delayed voter registration process and created unnecessary anxiety among voters.
“IEBC does not have manuals for voter education so far and we are likely to have politicians coming in to fill the void and mislead the public,” Otieno said.
Gor Samalengo, Federal Party leader said delay in appointing Registrar of Political Parties had hampered attempts to fully operationalise Political Parties Act.
“Ms Lucy Ndung’u, the acting Registrar of Political Parties has been forced by the Act to remain in office against her will as no appointment has been made so far. She has indicated that she wants to serve at IEBC full time,” Samalengo said.
However, IEBC chairman Issack Hassan recently said the process is on course and the electoral body will preside over a free and fair poll.
“There is no cause for alarm, the process is on course and we shall ensure that the election is free and fair,” Hassan said.