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ELECTION 2022

Most independent presidential aspirants will drop out; here's why

POLITICS
By Judah Ben-Hur | May 24th 2022 | 4 min read
A section of independent presidential candidates at the Bomas of Kenya when they met IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati.[Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The number of those seeking the presidency is expected to drop ahead of IEBC’s registration of presidential candidates between May 29 and June 7.

In a meeting with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission yesterday, disgruntled aspirants asked the electoral agency to scrap some requirements, including presenting signatures and identity card photocopies of 2,000 supporters from at least 24 counties.

For many of the aspirants present, getting the 2,000 signatures and ID copies has proved to be a tall order, with many citing lack of resources to reach the required number of supporters, even as the deadline for submission elapsed yesterday.

The commission, however, extended the deadline to May 25 after the majority of independent aspirants complained that the time given was insufficient.

“We have allowed them to submit what they have today and ensure that by the 25th of this month, they would have complied,” said IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. 

Despite the aspirants’ repeated attempts to cajole the commission to scrap the requirements, IEBC did not budge.

The aspirants are now threatening to take IEBC to court over what they term unfair setting of the political playing field to favour politicians from major political parties.

Former Runyejes MP Njeru Kathangu accused IEBC of plotting to have only the top tier politicians on the ballot and lock out the less known individuals vying as independents.

“You want to eliminate all these people from the presidential campaigns and have two characters only. That’s why you have made it so difficult for us,” said Mr Kathangu.

Independent presidential aspirant Kevin Odhiambo said the requirements were an effort by the electoral agency to lock deserving Kenyans from exercising their democratic rights.

“The threshold set is too high and negates our rights to participate and vie for the presidency. Why would we be required to get people’s IDs and signatures? It is unnecessary and exclusionist,” said Mr Odhiambo.

Independent presidential aspirant Naslin Omar said, “IEBC has decided it’s going to stand by Raila Odinga and a few other big boys whom they feel they want to clear. The rest have been locked out by these illegal and unconstitutional requirements.”

Currently, 11 presidential aspirants have been struck off the list after failing to beat the running mate submission deadline that elapsed on May 16, leaving a total of 55 aspirants.

Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate William Ruto is expected to appear before the commission for registration on June 4, while his Azimio counterpart Raila Odinga will do so on June 5. 

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati speaks during a past event. [File, Standard]

Last month, the High Court dismissed a case where independent aspirants sought to stop IEBC from requiring them to submit ID photocopies of their supporters.

In the ruling, Justice Antony Mrima said revoking the guidelines by IEBC would lead to a constitutional crisis.

Judge Mrima said even though the case raises critical questions about the law, the court would not suspend the legislation.

The independents argued that the requirements lacked logical ground and most of them were not applicable both in the 2013 and 2017 general elections.

They said the collection of such data (IDs and signatures) infringes on the citizens’ rights to have their data protected.

In its defence, IEBC said all requirements put in place are subject to the law and gazette notices the commission published in 2021 and 2022.

The independent candidates further castigated the commission for failing to take action on political parties and candidates who started campaigning before the official campaign starting date – May 29.

“We are supposed to follow every law that is on that paper... why are campaigns out there already? We want to see what you will do,” said presidential aspirant Grita Muthoni.

Without going into specifics, Mr Chebukati said the commission had addressed the issue in the past and “is calling on those going around the country to be peaceful”.

Currently leading the campaigns for the presidency are Mr Odinga and Dr Ruto.

Lawyer Paul Mwangi, a member of the Azimio presidential campaign think tank, however, said they (Azimio) have not been doing campaigns but engaging in “meeting the people tours”.

“If anyone has breached the election law, then these individuals should be prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP),” said Mr Chebukati.

Answering whether candidates who have been impeached, have integrity issues or have been charged in court will be allowed to vie for office, he said only those who have been impeached will not be cleared.

However, those with ongoing cases in court or who have been charged will have a chance to run for office.

“Article 99(3) of the Constitution says even if you have been found guilty but have appealed and have not exhausted your appeal, then you can be allowed to exercise your democratic right. That is the position of the commission,” said Mr Chebukati.

National Integrity Alliance, a civil society lobby group, published a list of politicians who they say have questionable integrity and should be barred from holding public office.

The lobby said it will move to court to seek orders barring those with integrity issues from running for elective positions.

Mr Chebukati said, “As a commission, we wait for the judgement of the court. But we follow the law as it is for now.”

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