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Ray of hope as Jubilee answers Raila team on IEBC

CORD leader Raila Odinga

NAIROBI: The ruling coalition and the Opposition yesterday moved closer to a deal on electoral reform talks after Jubilee softened its stand on some of CORD’s demands.

However, some legislators from Jubilee said they will reject any proposal to change the Constitution. Even as the politicians worked to bridge the gap between the coalitions, the chairman of the electoral commission Issack Hassan yesterday said that he was ready to accept any political settlement.

The Standard can reveal that the Jubilee leadership in Parliament was last evening mulling removal of Moses Kuria (Gatundu South) from the list of its negotiators on electoral reforms, as it sought to get a compromise on the Opposition demands for talks on the future of the electoral agency.

Kuria is wanted by police and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission for hate-speech, and the Opposition has said it won't negotiate with him. The Jubilee coalition has also yielded to a demand for a seven-member team from each side.

The Opposition's lead negotiator senator James Orengo (Siaya) told The Standard he has a response from the Jubilee leaders. "...we have received the documents from Jubilee... we are studying them to see if we can agree. Once we do, we can then hit the ground running," said Orengo.

The confidential memo shows the changes they want at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) included direct appointment of electoral commissioners.

CORD also wants the two largest coalitions to nominate three commissioners each, with independent parties nominating one commissioner.

This means the coalition wants to bypass an IEBC selection panel being proposed under the election Laws Amendment Bill sponsored by the House Justice and Legal Affairs committee.

The Opposition also wants a total overhaul of the IEBC, including the Secretariat, in addition to a reduction in the number of constituencies and county assemblies. It is also demanding introduction of a parliamentary system of government to replace the current presidential system.

It is these demands that Jubilee is opposed to, but which have become the sticking points of the current standoff. Jubilee has maintained its hardline stance that any electoral reforms must go through Parliament.

"For now, we are busy with the documents, we will communicate the way forward soon," said Orengo.

"Our side is ready to take the names to the National Assembly. However, it will be very difficult for us to agree to the other demands as some of them will require a referendum. It is now upon them to agree and come to the negotiating table. The select committee will only discuss issues to deal with IEBC," said a source privy to the demands by CORD.

The developments came as the House leadership is expected to appear before a joint committee of the House today to discuss the process of reforming the IEBC. The leadership was invited last week by the Justice Committee sitting jointly with the Constitutional Oversight Implementation Committee (CIOC).

Among those expected are House Majority Leader, Aden Duale and Deputy Minority leader, Jakoyo Midiwo. A well-placed source told The Standard that the party had yielded to some of the Opposition demands to reduce the number of negotiators from the initial 11 to seven, and drafted a motion expected to be tabled in the National Assembly as early as this afternoon. The motion proposes that the seven be part of a House select committee to investigate IEBC commissioners and present a report to the House.

"The select committee will look into any sins of omission and commission and report back to the National Assembly. We have agreed to reduce the number of people from 11 to seven as requested by CORD," said a source.

A mediation team comprising diplomats and religious leaders had proposed the insulation of the reform team from any outside interference, according to a document seen by The Standard.

"CORD and Jubilee parliamentarians will jointly present to the National Assembly and Senate a motion establishing the joint select committee, its rules of procedure and membership. The rules will insulate the joint select committee from outside interference," the document reads.

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