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It’s race against time for IEBC as elections countdown starts

By Josphat Thiong'o | August 8th 2021

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati addressing the media during IEBC Annual Voter Education Week at Bomas of Kenya on June, 14, 2021.[Boniface Okendo,Standard]

With exactly one year to the General Election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is racing against time to ensure credible polls.

The General Election will take place on August 9, 2022 and with the elections operation plan now in the public domain, the countdown has begun. The plan will not only guide IEBC’s operations towards the polls but also outline priorities, timelines and milestones in the electoral cycle.

As the elections approach, the commission is yet to be fully constituted and its acting CEO is set to retire.

In line with the packed elections calendar released in June, IEBC has embarked on the first phase of mass voter registration that began on August 2 and will run until August 16.

The commission is expected to conduct two phases of mass voter registration targeting seven million Kenyans, with the second phase scheduled for December 6 to December 20.

Consequently, IEBC is required to hire a firm of repute to audit its voter register from October 1 to October 30. The report from the firm will then be tabled in Parliament for approval before its recommendations are implemented by the IEBC.

The House will then have from November 2 to 15 to deliberate on the report. Come February 28, 2022, the commission will be required to suspend voter registration to allow for the field verification from March 1 to April 14.

The certified register of voters will then be generated and gazetted on May 2, 2022, three months to the polls.

By December 9, 2021 – eight months before the General Election – political aspirants are expected to have concluded their fundraising exercises.

The timelines further dictate that civil servants seeking to run for office should resign by February 9, 2022. According to the law, public officers seeking elective seats must resign six months to the General Election.

According to the elections operations plan, nominations for presidential candidates will take place between May 30 and June 10 next year.

Submission of the names of independent candidates will be done on May 9.

Official campaigns are expected to run from May 10 – after presidential candidates submit their papers to the IEBC – to August 6, two days to polling day.

Notably, party primaries are slated to be conducted between April 16 and April 22. Names of the candidates to participate in the party primaries must have been submitted by April 9.

The commission will then gazette the names by April 16.

Moreover, nominations for institutions such as the Senate will be held from May 30 to June 2,2022, the National Assembly May 30 to June 1, woman representative June 3-6, governor nominations June 10 and county assembly from June 2-10.

By June 20, the list of all nominated candidates will be ready.

Deployment of polling station personnel, materials and Kiems kits will be done on August 8, just a day to the Election Day on August 9.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati says the elections operations plan was developed based on the wealth of experience and lessons learnt from the 2017 General Election and presidential re-run, recommendations from stakeholders and observer reports.

Speaking during the launch of the plan, he said for it to be successfully implemented, the commission must be fully constituted in time, funds made available and the 3G network coverage expanded.

The IEBC as currently constituted lacks quorum and has three commissioners out of the required seven. On Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta nominated four commissioners and forwarded their names to Parliament for vetting after receiving the report of the selection panel.

They are Juliana Wihonge Chirera, Francis Mathenge Wanderi, Irene Cherop Masit and Justice Abonyo Nyangaya.

The four positions fell vacant following resignation of commissioners Roselyn Akombe, Margaret Mwachanya, Paul Kurgat and former Vice Chair Consolata Maina.

On matters funding, IEBC was allocated Sh14.5 billion in the Sh3.6 trillion 2021/22 budget. According to acting CEO Hussein Marjan, the money will be used in administration, daily running of the commission and preparation for the General Election.

“The commission will map and review voter registration centres ahead of 2022. It will also conduct an audit of voter registration technology and review technical requirements and specifications of election technology (BVR, KIEMS). We will then update the BVR system licence and infrastructure to accommodate additional voters,” said Chebukati.

Former IEBC commissioner Thomas Letangule argues that the electoral agency needs to do more to conduct a free and fair election.

“IEBC has gone ahead to advertise for a tender for ballot papers yet they do not have a register to know how many ballot papers they need since they haven’t conducted enough voter registration. They’ve only registered an additional 150,000 at most,” says Letangule.

He says whereas the electoral agency has a bit of time to get its affairs in order, tender wars, which have been a frequent feature in the previous elections, will come and have the potential of delaying the entire process.

“One year to elections they have a bit of time and they are on track having advertised for the supply of ballot materials. They however need to sort out the tender wars early,” says Letangule.

On the commission lacking quorum and a substantive CEO, he urged the IEBC secretariat to hasten the process of filling the gaps.

“The president is expected to swear in the new commissioners anytime this month, so the issue of quorum has been sorted. There is, however, need for the commissioners to be trained so they can join others,” says Letangule.

“The secretariat of the IEBC is very crucial because they run the operations whereas commissioners just provide guidance and policy. The commissioners need to provide leadership by ensuring there’s a substantive CEO and they all work in harmony.”

He called on the government to provide timely funding and security to ensure IEBC gets the credulity it deserves to run an election.

“Political parties need not bash the commission but support it. Where they need to criticise they should seek audience with IEBC to ensure that at least five years to elections, everyone has faith in the electoral agency," says Letangule. 

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