Members of the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on the electoral reforms may push for its term to be extended after divisions emerged over several contentious issues. Sources who attended the meeting indicated that a number of issues were still unresolved by the time the committee’s 30-day deadline to complete a report lapsed.
It emerged that the committee was still undecided on how many commissioners should occupy positions in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), when the current polls chiefs leave office, and how their exit should be managed. The select committee had also not agreed on whether or not the new commissioners should work full term.
According to a highly-placed source, the select committee was also divided on the voter register to be used in next year’s elections, and whether or not only one service provider should be used in relaying poll results. The location of back-up servers for the IEBC was also contested.
By the end of Friday, the protracted negotiations of the joint parliamentary select committee co-chaired by Senators James Orengo (Siaya) and Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) failed to achieve consensus on these issues. At some point, the hardline position taken by Jubilee and CORD degenerated into bitter exchanges, nearly turning physical, prompting the talks on the sticky issues to be postponed.
The Standard on Sunday, however, established that the talks would resume today and a preliminary report released tomorrow giving details of areas where the committee had achieved consensus.
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Two draft Bills on election offences and another to amend several electoral laws to ensure the August 2017 polls are credible will also be tabled.
“Extension will be sought to oversight the issues we have proposed. We will meet tomorrow (today) ahead of our Monday release of the report and the Bills. It is during this time that it will be upon members to either extend our term or come up with the way forward,” said a member of the team who spoke in confidence.
Another insider among the 14-member team confirmed that despite striking a deal on a raft of issues, some were still contested.
“This requires more time,” said the official.
Multiple sources at the committee said the Jubilee side pushed to have a nine-member commission working full time, while CORD wanted only seven part-time commissioners.
It also emerged that CORD wanted political parties to play a role in the recruitment of the selection panel of commissioners, but this was opposed by the Jubilee side.
“Jubilee wanted the Parliamentary Service Commission to nominate two people, while religious groups and the Law Society of Kenya nominates others,” said a source, who also disclosed that Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Jimmy Angwenyi of Kitutu Chache North wanted representation of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Kuria and Anqwenyi held brief for the Jubilee side as Junet Mohammed (Suna East) and Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama did so for CORD on all the contentious issues.
“The issue on the exit of the IEBC commissioners also stalled. Though there is merit in the arguments advanced by both sides, some of the hardliners caused a disturbance then disappeared when it was time to caucus,” said another official.
Orengo had a difficult time and was at times frustrated, while Kiraitu seemed to have an easy time with the negotiators, a source disclosed.
It emerged that Muthama and Junet made a hasty retreat when the debate on the voter register became heated, as both sides differed on whether to come up with a new register or have experts clean the old one.
Muthama reportedly consulted Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka when discussions on the voter register became too heated.