IEBC on spot over new rule on parties' membership

Secretary-General Kenya National Congress Ben Gesore accompanied by other Political Party Leaders addresses a press conference outside IEBC offices at Anniversary Towers, Nairobi. [Samson Wire. Standard].

Political parties have faulted the electoral agency for changing the process of submitting membership registers ahead of the April 9 deadline.

Officials of political parties on Thursday cast doubts on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) demand that political parties convert their membership registers to "Excel format" before submitting them to the commission.

“The commission insists that we need to subject the register into another format against the law. Once a register of a political party has been certified by the Registrar of Political Parties (RPP), who is the custodian of the political parties’ membership register, we do not expect the commission to change the register,” said Omondi Koyoo, secretary-general for National Liberal Party.

The recently enacted Political Parties Act (amendment) 2021 requires political parties to submit all their members to the Registrar of Political Parties by March 26 for ratification and submit the list to IEBC by April 9.

According to Koyoo, the alleged directive by the Wafula Chebukati-led commission could lock out candidates from nomination and subsequently August 9 elections.

“Changing the register's format is subject to manipulation because someone can insert or remove members. We are appealing to the IEBC to follow the law and accept the registers in the original format as ratified by the registrar of political parties.

Justus Juma of Justice and Freedom Party said RPP is the legal custodian of the membership lists of political parties, noting that the commission is overstepping its mandate.

"Our registers were certified as per the format of the Integrated Political Parties Management System (IPPMS). Some parties have millions of members and the IEBC's new directive means that we have to start keying the members' names yet we only have until Saturday," said Juma. 

The IEBC did not respond to the allegation by the political parties about changing membership lists.

Benjamin Gisore, the Secretary-General of the Kenya National Congress party, said the April 9 deadline may lock out members registered in parties that have many members.

"We cannot reduce political parties to messengers. The commission and the RPP have links where they can share and submit the information. The documents are currently saved in a format that can't be manipulated and if we changed the format, some members would be removed from the lists," said Gisore.  

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